In all the talk about crushing student debt, one group of young people tends to be ignored: borrowers who dropped out of college without finishing. Sometimes it’s the accumulating debt itself that makes them panic and quit so they can start earning some money; sometimes it’s other factors. But according to a study by Education Sector, 30 percent of student borrowers at non-profit colleges and universities, and 54 percent of those at for-profit colleges, drop out without ever graduating.
And that’s when the trouble starts — all that debt, and no degree to show for it. Unemployment rates are higher for this subset of young people. And, distressingly, they are more than 4 times more likely than borrowers who graduated to default on their student loans.
The Education Sector report is four months old, but it was the subject of a New York Times editorial just today. Maybe that’s because it’s graduation season and journalists’ fancies turn to thoughts of debt. But it’s good to see attention being paid to the real victims of the college costs, the young people who take out loans hoping for a better life and find themselves falling off the ladder and never being able to catch up. I’m glad to see a little less attention being paid to folks like the young woman from Northwestern paying off her $200,000 loan by accepting online donations from strangers through a Kickstarter-like campaign, and a little more being paid to the trapped and earnest young adults who find themselves strangled by their own bad choices.