15 Worst Colleges in America for College Debt Defaults

Just over 11% of people who’ve borrowed money to pay for college are failing to pay back their loans, according to a new analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Education by the Student Loan Report. Those who attended private schools that don’t grant degrees, community colleges, and for-profit schools had the highest default rates on federal student loans. Students who attended public and private four-year schools were the least likely to default.

“For-profit schools and schools that are less than four years have higher default rates because students from these schools typically get lower paying jobs with less chance for advancement as compared to their bachelor degree recipient counterparts,” Drew Cloud, the founder of the Student Loan Report, told The Cheat Sheet. “Also, many students from these schools never graduate and are stuck with high debt, no degree, and a job that they could have gotten without attending college at all.”

Student loan defaults

Student loan defaults | Student Loan Report

Eleven of the top 15 schools with the highest default rates were non-degree-granting institutions, most of them barber or cosmetology schools. At some of these schools, the typical graduate earned less than $10,000 per year, according to data from the Department of Education. Overall, a third of people who completed for-profit certificate programs attended schools where the typical graduate earned less than minimum wage.

If default rates are high enough, schools run the risk of losing access to federal student loan money. But even if default rates aren’t so bad that the federal government turns off the tap, students should be wary of schools where many graduates can’t pay their debts. Before enrolling, potential students “need to consider what kind of jobs students attending their potential schools with their desired major usually get,” Cloud said. “This way, they might have a better idea of how successful they may be at repayment.”

You can review Student Loan Report’s data to find out a college’s default rate. Information on the actual number of students who defaulted is available from the Department of Education. However, keep in mind that a high default rate may not tell the whole story about a school. “Some schools have a small number of borrowers entering repayment. At other schools only a small portion of the student body takes out student loans. In such cases, the cohort default rate should be interpreted with caution as these rates may not be reflective of the entire school population,” noted the Department of Education.

These are the 15 worst colleges in the U.S. in terms of student loan default rates, with the worst default rate almost topping 50%.

15. Aaron’s Academy of Beauty

Aaron's Academy of Beauty

Aaron’s Academy of Beauty | Aaron’s Academy of Beauty via Facebook

  • Default rate: 35.85%
  • School type: Private non-degree

At Aaron’s Academy of Beauty in Waldorf, Maryland, 38 of the 106 students repaying their loans in 2013 were in default.

14. Northern California Institute of Cosmetology

Northern California Institute of Cosmetology

Northern California Institute of Cosmetology | Northern California Institute of Cosmetology via Facebook

  • Default rate: 37.78%
  • School type: Private non-degree

This school in San Leandro, California, offers programs in cosmetology, skin care, and nail care. Of 45 students in repayment in 2013, 17 had defaulted on their loans.

13. Florida Barber Academy

Florida Barber Academy

Florida Barber Academy | Florida Barber Academy via Facebook

  • Default rate: 37.95%
  • School type: Private non-degree

Florida Barber Academy in Plantation, Florida, offers a 1,200-hour barber training program. In 2013, 115 of 303 students in repayment had defaulted on their loans, a rate of nearly 38%.

12. University of South Carolina – Union

University of South Carolina - Union

University of South Carolina – Union | University of South Carolina – Union via Facebook

  • Default rate: 38.37%
  • School type: Public two-year

The University of South Carolina – Union is part of the state’s Palmetto College program, where students earn two-year degrees on campus and then have the option of enrolling for an additional two years online to earn a bachelor’s degree. Sixty-six of 172 students in repayment were in default in 2013.

11. Buchanan Beauty College

happy young woman and stylist with tablet pc

A woman talking to her hair stylist | iStock.com/dolgachov

  • Default rate: 38.71%
  • School type: Private non-degree

At Buchanan Beauty College in Shelbyville, Tennessee, 12 out of 31 students were in default on their student loans.

10. Nashville Barber and Style Academy

A man in a barber shop

A man in a barber shop | iStock.com

  • Default rate: 39.29%
  • School type: Private non-degree

This trade school in Madison, Tennessee offers a 1,500-hour Master Barber training program. Of 56 students in repayment in 2013, 22 were in default.

9. Denmark Technical College

Denmark Technical College

Denmark Technical College | Denmark Technical College via Facebook

  • Default rate: 39.33%
  • School type: Public two-year

Denmark Technical College in Denmark, South Carolina, offers associate degrees, diplomas, and certificate programs. Of 661 students in repayment, 260 were in default.

8. Rob Roy Academy

hairbrushes and scissors

Scissors, brushes and other hair styling accessories | Sean Gallup/Getty Images

  • Default rate: 39.39%
  • School type: Private non-degree

Rob Roy Academy is a chain of cosmetology schools in Massachusetts. The school’s Fall River location has a default rate of 39%, with 39 of 99 students in repayment failing to make good on their loans. Default rates at the school’s three other campuses range from 21.2% to 35.3%.

7. Capstone College

Capstone College

Capstone College | Capstone College via Facebook

  • Default rate: 41.46%
  • School type: Private non-degree

Capstone College in Pasadena, California, offers career training programs for HVAC technicians, medical assistants, and chiropractic assistants and physical therapy aides. In 2013, 17 out of 41 students in repayment were in default.

6. Cr’U Institute of Cosmetology and Barbering

Cr'U Institute of Cosmetology

Cr’U Institute of Cosmetology | Cr’U Institute of Cosmetology via Facebook

  • Default rate: 42.42%
  • School type: Private non-degree

This cosmetology school in Garden Grove, California has a default rate of over 40%. Twenty-eight students out of 66 were in default in 2013.

5. Isothermal Community College

young man walking outside with a backpack over one shoulder

Man walking to class | iStock.com

  • Default rate: 42.66%
  • School type: Public two-year

The graduation rate at this community college in Spindale, North Carolina is 7%, according to College Scorecard data. Sixty-one students out of 143 in repayment were in default in 2013 on their loans. According to the college website, the school no longer offers students access to the Federal Direct Student Loan program.

4. United Tribes Technical College

United Tribes Technical College

United Tribes Technical College | United Tribes Technical College via Facebook

  • Default rate: 43.41%
  • School type: Private degree-granting

United Tribes Technical College is a Native American tribal college in Bismarck, North Dakota offering bachelor’s degrees, associate degrees, and certificate programs. In 2013, 57 out of 131 students in repayment were in default. As of 2016, Native students enrolled in a federally recognized tribe can attend the school tuition-free.

3. Jay’s Technical Institute

Jay's Technical Institute

Jay’s Technical Institute | Jay’s Technical Institute via Facebook

  • Default rate: 46.60%
  • School type: Private non-degree

The default rate is nearly 47% at this cosmetology and barber school in Houston. Forty-eight students out of 101 were in default in 2013.

2. New Life Business Institute

medical assistant

A medical assistant at work | John Moore/Getty Images

  • Default rate: 47.34%
  • School type: Private non-degree

New Life Business Institute is a private, non-degree career school in Jamaica, Queens. It offers programs in medical billing and medical office administration. In 2013, 89 students had defaulted on their loans, out of 188 who were in repayment.

1. Larry’s Barber College

a man getting his beard trimmed

A barber trims a man’s beard | Erika Santelices/AFP/Getty Images

  • Default rate: 48.39%
  • School type: Private non-degree

Larry’s Barber College in Chicago has a higher student loan default rate than any other school in the country. In fiscal year 2013, 15 of the 31 students repaying their loans had defaulted.

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