Contrary to a nationwide trend of defaulting on student loans, Harvard students are repaying their debts in full.
Statistics from the Student Loan Office show that Harvard's default rate for 1974 was less than four per cent, compared to a national rate of 14.5 per cent. "There are a lot of people defaulting today," R. Jerrold Gibson, director of the Office of Fiscal Services, said yesterday. The vast majority of defaults take place in vocational schools, Gibson said, where the default rate is in excess of 50 per cent.
"The Harvard loan program is on a firm footing," Gibson said. The University draws directly from its endowment for the $37 million in loans it lends to undergraduate and graduate students. The federal government insures against default.
The university began to actively collect debts after it started granting a large volume of loans a year and a half ago. Although the Loan Office had never pressured defaulted debtors for payment, it now has an established procedure of sending letters and ultimately referring delinquents to a collection agency.
"We have had amazing success in collecting bills from back years," said Gibson.
The loan office does everything it can to help students repay their debts, Gibson said. Students who suddenly find themselves unable to pay are encouraged to file deferment forms, he said, and the office requests no more than six per cent of a graduate's total income, regardless of the size of his debt.
"Very few people have a clear idea of how the debt will figure in their plans," Gibson said. He said he would like to realign the system so students do not bear the brunt of their obligations the first year out of school, when other financial pressures are greatest.
Most students do not begin paying interest on their loans until nine months after graduation.
President Ford's economic proposals could have profound implications for student loan programs, Gibson said. The present federal loan budget of $300 million could face reduction if Ford's budget cuts touch higher education, he said.
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