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College graduates are having a much harder time repaying their college loans than previously understood, according to a recent study. Only 37% of 2005 graduates have been able to pay their student loan bills on time every month.

The rest either have defaulted, been delinquent, or requested a forbearance of deferral.

“The full scope of the problem is worrisome,” according to the report published by the Institute for Higher Education Policy. “It is important to recognize that for every borrower who defaults, at least two others have been delinquent on their student loans.”

[Article: The Dos and Don’ts of Financing a College Education]

Most studies of student loans focus on default only. Of the 667,000 borrowers reviewed in the Institute’s study, 15% defaulted. But default numbers alone fail to show the full picture of growing student loan debt. More than a quarter—26%—of student loan borrowers have fallen behind on their payments at some point and fallen into delinquency. Another 23% had to utilize deferral or forbearance as tools to catch up on missed payments.

Altogether, that means 64% of student loan borrowers in 2005 experienced some major problem making their full payments on time in the last six years, the study found.

“Many, if not most, borrowers who entered repayment after leaving college without a credential became delinquent or defaulted,” the study found.

[Resource: 5 Strategies Towards Free Higher Ed Learning]

The problem is especially pronounced for students who leave school before graduating. Only 42% of people who entered postsecondary education in 2005 wound up graduating with a degree or certificate, the study found. Of the majority of students who didn’t graduate, 59% later defaulted or became delinquent (the rate among graduates was 38%).

Default problems were most severe for those who attended for-profit, two-year institutions. Among these students, 36% went into default.

For more information on the growing student loan problem and resources for students struggling with student loan debt, check out:

Image by Alex E. Proimos, via Flickr

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