Rep. Alma Adams, DN.C., says many Americans who carry heavy student loan debt don’t even get their money’s worth.
Your comments come as the Biden administration is considering action to pay off some student loan debt.
“Almost 40% of borrowers with student loan debt have not graduated from college. Now they are facing the worst of both worlds: all debts and no graduation, ”Adams tweeted on February 9th.
Is it true that nearly 40% of borrowers haven’t graduated?
Adams’ tweet caught our attention because he did not cite a source for their claim. When we contacted Adams’ office, a spokesman said Adams received the statistics from Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Warren tweeted a similar claim on Jan. 27, saying, “Up to 4 in 10 people with student loan debt were unable to graduate, many because of high costs, so they are now in the worst of both worlds – crushed by debt, no diploma, to increase their income. “
After speaking with Warren’s office and tracing the origins of this claim, the statistics shared by Warren and Adams seem to be on the right track. However, it is based on a limited data set with a short tracking period.
Warren’s office said their source was Data compiled by the National Center for Education Statistics and analyzed by Mark Huelsman, former assistant director of policy and research at Demos, a progressive think tank.
Huelsman is now a fellow at Temple University’s Hope Center for College, Community and Justice. He is also a fellow in the Student Borrower Protection Center, a nonprofit advocacy group.
Huelsman told PolitiFact that he looked at students who were in college in the 2011-12 school year and who had borrowed from public or private lenders. Then he looked to see if those students graduated by 2017.
“I looked at the accumulated debt. If at any point in college you were in debt, did you graduate? ”He said.
The number that emerges from his research: 38.6% of people who took out a student loan over this six-year period did not complete their college education during that period.
PolitiFact reached out to other experts about Huelsman’s findings.
Adam Looney, economist and senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, and Judith Scott-Clayton, professor of economics and education at Columbia University, said they analyzed the same NCES data and got practically the same result.
Of course, Huelsman’s analysis is only a snapshot of a period of time. Experts from the NCES and the Urban Institute, a non-partisan think tank, look at graduation rates in six-year windows, as that period can take into account part-time students and other variables, as explained in a recently released institute report.
However, some people return to school outside of the six-year deadline and eventually graduate, ”said Jill Barshay, writer and editor for The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit education newsroom.
“The problem with the six-year timeframe is that it takes many people more than six years to graduate,” Barshay said in an email. “I don’t know what percentage of them end up doing it. Some colleges like to use an 8 year period to measure how many students complete their 4 year degrees. “
We asked Looney and Scott-Clayton if they were aware of any other significant studies on the subject. They said it was difficult to get information about long-term repayment of individual debts and graduation from college.
“This 8-year survey is the best readily available,” Looney said.
In an email, Scott-Clayton said:
“Unfortunately, there are only a few data sets that link information about the loan with information about the degree. Many student borrowing statistics (such as those from the Federal Reserve Banks) are based on credit report data – this is not tied to any degree information. Because of this, we have to rely on these NCES surveys, which track people over time and gather a lot of valuable information, but are only used every now and then. “
Huelsman noted that his 38.6% figure for student loan borrowers is in line with general trends in college degrees. The NCES last year reported that the overall six-year graduation rate for most full-time students in 2018 was 62%, meaning nearly 40% did not graduate.
In the debate about whether lawmakers should waive student loan debt, it’s important to note that the nearly 40% of non-graduates don’t hold 40% of the debt.
“While 39% of borrowers have no college degree, they account for only 23% of the debt they borrow,” Looney said. Bachelor’s degrees make up 41% of all borrowers but hold 64% of the debt, Looney said.
Adams tweeted, “Nearly 40% of borrowers with student loan debt haven’t graduated from college.”
Three separate analyzes of data from the National Center for Education Statistics found that 38% to 39% of people who took out college loans between 2012 and 2017 did not graduate from college during that period.
Although there is a lack of data on this particular topic, experts consider this analysis to be the most reliable to date. We rate this claim as largely true.