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Predictors of Student Loan Repayments: A Comparison Between Public, Private For-Profit and Private Nonprofit Schools

by Mannat Bakshi and Arjun Ahluwalia

Using a sample of over 3,500 colleges from the College Scorecard Dataset , we investigate the association of average federal student loan repayment rates with institutional, regional, and student demographic characteristics of colleges. We consider educational cohorts from 2010 to 2016 at public, private for-profit, and private non-profit institutions. Our data do not allow us to see individual student characteristics, hence we control for traits of the average student in each college and focus on institutional traits that impact repayment rates. Our controls for demographics are consistent with prior research on student loan repayment rates (Lochner and Monge-Naranjo, 2014; Kelchen and Li, 2017).

We ran a Random Effects panel regression to determine how institutional, regional, and student demographic characteristics impact repayment rates. We see an important influence of the institution attended. Institution selectivity (lower admission and withdrawal rates) is associated with higher average repayment. Furthermore, the highest degree awarded is a more significant variable when it comes to describing the variation in repayment rates for public schools; private for-profit schools exhibit lower repayment rates and private nonprofit schools exhibit higher repayment rates regardless of the highest degree awarded. This could be due to a combination of signaling and screening effects. Local income and unemployment impact repayment for the average student in public and for-profit schools, but not in private non-profit schools.

A noticeable institutional finding is that, even after controlling for average school demographics, for-profit schools exhibit lower repayment rates across all types of degree-granting programs. Attending a for-profit school may be a negative signal of ability or value to potential employers. Median family income positively affects repayment twice as much for for-profit schools compared to other school types. These finding on for-profit institutions help explain Obama’s “crack down on for-profit career training colleges” (Simon & Emma, 2014).

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Advisor: Professor Genna Miller | JEL Codes: I2, I22, I26

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