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Sept 23, 2004

Calvin Grads Score Well on Loans

Graduates of West Michigan colleges and universities have some of the lowest default rates on student loans in the state according to a report this week from the U.S. Department of Education.

Among the best is Calvin College where in fiscal year 2002 (the most recent year for which figures are available) just 1.1 percent of the school's graduates making loan repayments were in default. For 2001 Calvin's figure was 1.2%, while it checked in at 1.1% in 2000 and 1.4% in 1999.

Nationwide, the Department of Education said, just 5.2 percent of college graduates who began making payments in fiscal 2002 defaulted on their debt - an all-time low. Using statistics from schools and lenders, the Education Department's default rate is based on the number of students who go 270 days without making a payment during their first year of repaying a student loan.

The national student loan default rate reached a high of 22.4 percent in FY 1990 but has declined steadily since. Department officials attribute the drop in defaults to improved credit counseling, more flexible repayment schedules and low interest rates.

West Michigan colleges and universities mirror that trend. For 2002, Hope College was at 1.0% (down from 1.8% in 2001), Cornerstone at 1.8% (down from 2.1% in 2001), Aquinas at 1.9% (down from 4.7% in 2001) and Grand Valley at 2.8% (down from 2.9% in 2001).

Calvin director of financial aid Ed Kerestly says the low loan default rate for Calvin graduates is encouraging.

"While the focus of a Calvin education is to prepare students for lifetime of experiences - not just one job - it is good," he says, "to know that our graduates can and do meet their financial commitments."

Calvin vice president Tom McWhertor says that part of the reason graduates of Calvin are able to maintain a low default rate is that a Calvin education is affordable and the school's scholarship and financial aid program is effective.

"The cost of a Calvin education is within reach for most families," he says, "and our graduates are not burdened with great debt when they graduate."

Kerestly notes that the average indebtedness for Calvin graduates who have student loans is about $15,500 for the most recent year. While that is not an insubstantial amount, he says, it's less than the amount people often borrow to buy a car.

"And," he adds with a chuckle, "while a car does nothing but depreciate we believe a Calvin degree actually appreciates."

In fact, the average college graduate, Kerestly says, will make a million dollars more over the course of her career than someone without a college degree.

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Contact Phil de Haan
616-526-6475 (v)
616-526-7069 (f)