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NC State has one of the lowest student loan default rates in the country, which may in part be due to factors such as employment opportunities, grants and low tuition provided by the university.

According to Krista Ringler, associate vice provost and director of the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid, the default rate for loans taken out by NC State students sit at 2.8%. These figures are collected by the U.S. Department of Education and are publicly available online

Defaulting on a loan essentially means violating the terms of a borrowing agreement by being unable to repay the loan. For some student loans, this technically occurs if a payment is not made within 270 days.

In comparison, the national average for four-year public universities is 7.1% and 10.8% nationally among all colleges for the 2015 fiscal year. For context, within the UNC System, UNC-Chapel Hill has an even lower default rate of 1.5%.

The information takes into account those that have entered repayment from 2015 until 2018 and have not made payments in a certain timeframe, which varies between loans. This means that the information does not just take into account information from one graduating class.

Ringler said that for students leaving NC State in the 2017-2018 period, there was an average of $24,000 of undergraduate student loan debt, and that just over half of that graduating class borrowed at some point.

A variety of factors may impact student loans at NC State. For one, public universities like NC State and UNC-Chapel Hill charge significantly less for tuition and fees than private universities because they are in part funded through their respective states. 

For example, Duke University, a private institution, estimates its tuition and fees at over $58,000 for the 2019-2020 year, while NC State charges $9,100 for in-state undergraduates and $29,220 for out-of-state undergraduates for the 2019-20 year. However, according to the Department of Education’s data, Duke University has a default rate of 0.6%, lower than NC State or UNC-Chapel Hill.

An additional factor in NC State’s low rate may be the availability of scholarships and grants at the university, Ringler said. In addition to federal scholarships and loans, NC State offers its own to assist students in paying for their education, like the Park Scholarship Program for those with achievement in service and academics and the Goodnight Scholars Program for outstanding STEM and education-oriented students. NC State also provides grants for students looking to pursue projects, such as the Sustainability Fund.

Finally, NC State provides ample opportunities for students in search of jobs or internships, Ringler said. Through events such as the Engineering Career Fair, offices including the Career Development Center and online job databases like ePACK, NC State provides students and graduates help in finding jobs, which assists in paying off loans.

Student loan debt and in general paying for post-secondary education has been a topic of national concern recently. According to CNN, student loan debt affects 45 million Americans and amounts to around $1.5 trillion. 

While paying student loans can be difficult, Ringler advised students that find themselves in difficult situations to contact her office or even individual student loan servicers. Options for restructuring debt exist, and Ringler stressed that staying current is important.