Three 5Cs have zero percent student loan default rate, Pitzer leads with highest rate

A sign reading "Pitzer College Established 1963" is on a stone gate.
Pitzer College has the highest student loan default rate of the 5Cs according to data released by the Department of Education. (Regan Rudman • The Student Life)

Pomona College, Claremont McKenna College and Harvey Mudd College all had federal student loan default rates of 0 percent in the federal fiscal year 2017, according to newly released data from the Department of Education. 

The default rates — which measure what percentage of the borrowing student body fails to make monthly loan payments for 270 days of the fiscal year — do not include student loan defaults on private or non-federal loans.

The data, released Sep. 30, 2020, comes from borrowers who entered into repayment in federal fiscal year 2017 and who had participated in the Federal Family Education Loan Program or the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, which allows eligible students and parents to borrow directly from the U.S. Department of Education.

With a highest default rate of 3.5, the 7Cs are decidedly well below both national and state federal student loan default rate averages: 9.7 percent and 6.4 percent for fiscal year 2017, respectively.

CMC’s default rate fell by two percentage points from fiscal year 2016, while Pomona had a 0 percent default rate for at least two years prior to fiscal year 2017. 

Scripps College had a default rate of 0.90 percent, up from 0 percent in fiscal year 2016. Scripps’ rate ranked 195th nationally in a list of 4,398 colleges and 45th statewide from 455 colleges, according to LendEDU, meaning it had the 195th lowest default rate in the country and the 45th lowest default rate in the state.

Pitzer College had the highest rate of the 7Cs at 3.5 percent, although it had been at 6.5 percent in fiscal year 2016. Pitzer was ranked 813rd nationally and 162nd in California. Pitzer’s rate comes from four borrowers who were in default in fiscal year 2017. 

Mudd had the most borrowers of the 5Cs entering repayment — making monthly student loan payments — in fiscal year 2017 with 140 total. Pitzer had 114 borrowers, Scripps had 105, Pomona had 83 and CMC had 68. 

Claremont Graduate University had a default rate of 2.3 percent, with 417 borrowers entering repayment and 10 defaulting. 

Keck Graduate Institute had a default rate of 1.6 percent, and 62 borrowers entered repayment, with one defaulting. 

Defaulting negatively affects borrowers’ credit scores, and other consequences can include losing access to additional federal student aid, having wages garnished, being taken to court, having their transcript withheld by their college and being charged steep fees, according to the Federal Student Aid website.

Due to COVID-19, the federal government temporarily stopped requiring monthly payments and instituted an interest rate of 0 percent through Dec. 31, 2020, according to the office of Federal Student Aid. 

Pomona is the only 5C to not use loans as part of financial aid packages, yet students can still apply for federal loans with the help of the college. Pitzer, CMC, Scripps and HMC all include loans as part of the “self-help” portion of financial aid packages. 

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