TRU tries to rein in default rates
The provincial student-loan default rates are higher at Thompson Rivers University than at other similar post-secondary institutions, but the school’s administration says there’s no real cause for concern.
Christopher Seguin, TRU’s vice-president advancement, said the school is aware of its high default rates and is working on improving them.
“Thompson Rivers University’s numbers reflect two areas — on-campus learners and open-learning learners,” he told KTW.
“Both areas have heavily recruited non-traditional students through open access, meaning many learners are coming to us without former academic qualifications.
“We help these learners re-enter the academic world, but they sometimes have challenges that some of the other applicants don’t encounter — hence their rate of completion is not as high and it translates into the default numbers.”
In the four-year period between 2006 and 2009, TRU’s provincial student-loan default rate was routinely at or near the top of the list for fully accredited universities.
The school’s default rate was 15.5 per cent in 2006 and 19 per cent in 2007.
In 2008, the rate dropped to 14 per cent, and fell again in 2009 to 12.8 per cent.
More recent numbers have not yet been released publicly.
By comparison, Okanagan College’s default rate fluctuated between 9.7 per cent and 12.5 per cent in the same four-year period, while the University of Northern B.C.’s default rate stayed between 8.9 per cent and 9.8 per cent.
Between 2006 and 2009, the University of British Columbia’s default rate was between 3.7 per cent and 4.6 per cent.
The highest average default rates in the four-year period were at Merritt’s Nicola Valley Institute of Technology, where the numbers were between 34.9 per cent and 54 per cent.
Students go into default when they miss their payments for a period of nine months or longer.
Default can disqualify an individual from future student loans and can result in the matter going to collections or even to court.
The provincial and federal governments are also able to recover debts from GST and income-tax refunds.
Seguin said TRU has been working with the provincial government to get the default-rate issue in check and bring the school’s numbers down further, including evaluations of courses and programs that currently produce high default numbers.
“We have seen downward trends to the default rates because of our efforts,” he said.
“TRU is proud of our ability to offer education to non-traditional learners, and we will work hard to see these numbers fall in the future.
“We don’t believe they’re out of control, but we want to improve them.”
Seguin said another issue TRU has to deal with is the economic backgrounds of some students, who come from non-traditional learning environments, often with very limited financial resources — meaning they rely heavily on financial aid.
If those students don’t succeed academically, he said, they will likely have a very hard time repaying their loans.
“They’re coming to us with different academic and economic backgrounds,” he said.
“Sometimes it’s a question of academics, but sometimes they’re defaulting because of their economic backgrounds.”
TRU Student Union executive director Nathan Lane said the high default rates are a product of high tuition.
“The cost of post-secondary education at TRU has gone up significantly,” he said.
“As the student-loan borrowing rate goes up, the default rate goes up, too.”
Lane said recent figures indicate the average student debt in B.C. is $27,000.