Via Inside Higher Ed, Rainy River Community College in International Falls, Minnesota decided to end its football program because of high student loan default rates. According to the International Falls Daily Journal article, Rainy River has the highest student loan default rate in the country at 31.1 percent—that means that one-third of Rainy River’s students that take out federal student loans default on those loans within two years of leaving the college. And as I showed in an October Charts You Can Trust, it is very likely that Rainy River’s 10-year loan default rate is actually much higher.
With such a high default rate, Rainy River is at risk of losing its eligibility to participate in the federal loan program completely, meaning that no students could receive federal loans. But what do student loan default rates have to do with the football program?
Apparently the school had a difficult time getting football players to find the right balance between athletics and academics. And so they cut the football program to remove the distraction. I hope, though, that they are planning more significant changes to address the high default rate. As I also showed in the October Charts You Can Trust, default rates are much higher for students with large amounts of debt or low salaries after graduation. Rainy River can make a big impact on its default rate by finding ways to reduce the amount students are borrowing, increase their graduation rate, and ensure students have marketable job skills when they leave.
As my colleague, Kevin Carey, showed in his Washington Monthly article on community colleges, some are doing a better job than others. And it looks like Rainy River has a lot to learn from community colleges like top-rated Cascadia Community College in Washington, which boasts a two-year default rate of just 5.6 percent.