While you’re waiting for acceptances (seniors) or starting to get more serious about particular schools (everyone else), you might want to check out student loan default rates at the schools you’re interested in. Even if you’re not planning to borrow for college, the default rate can be an interesting number insofar as it is probably indicative of whether graduates of a particular school are finding gainful employment, particularly with respect to the cost of their degree (more expensive degrees tend to have higher loan balances attached to them).

The Department of Education tracks the “cohort default rate” by school and nationally. The cohort default rate is “the percentage of a school’s borrowers who enter repayment on certain Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program or William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program loans during a particular federal fiscal year (FY), October 1 to September 30, and default or meet other specified conditions prior to the end of the second following fiscal year.” The national cohort default rate for fiscal year 2014 (the most recent available data set, released on Sept. 30, 2017) was 11.5%, which is roughly in line with the previous two years’ rates, having declined from almost 15% in 2010.  Students attending four-year public or private non-profit institutions had considerably lower cohort default rates: 7.5% for four-year public and 7.0% for four-year private non-profits.

To see the default rates for schools you’re interested in (or have applied to), go to College Navigator, then search for your school and scroll down to Cohort Default Rates.