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Paying Off Debt: Student Loan Delinquency Rates Increase

Written by Janet Dedrick on December 10, 2012 in Credit  |   8 comments

Delinquency rates are down over last year across nearly all forms of credit, except one—student loan debt, where delinquency rates are on the rise as people struggle with paying off debt. Third-quarter delinquencies for auto loans, consumer finance, credit cards, mortgage loans, home finance, and…

Delinquency rates are down over last year across nearly all forms of credit, except one—student loan debt, where delinquency rates are on the rise as people struggle with paying off debt. Third-quarter delinquencies for auto loans, consumer finance, credit cards, mortgage loans, home finance, and home equity all decreased from the same period last year, and most delinquency rates have been slowly dropping since their high in the middle of 2010.

First mortgage delinquency rates

First mortgage delinquency rates saw the greatest leaps—from 5 percent in 2007 until their spike in 2010 at a little more than 12 percent. Since then, the rate has slowly declined, now hovering at around 8 percent of total first mortgage loans, though it still remains elevated over pre-recession figures. Additionally, first mortgage 30-day plus delinquency rates declined 16 percent from the end of the third quarter 2011 to the same period in 2012.

Home finance and home equity revolving lines of credit

Along with first mortgage rates, delinquency rates for home finance and home equity revolving lines of credit have also dropped, but they remain higher than their pre-recession rates. Home equity revolving 30-day plus delinquency rates declined 13 percent over last year, while home finance delinquency rates dropped 15 percent.

Some of this decrease could be credited to consumers refinancing existing mortgage debt at lower rates, along with the overall decline in mortgage debt due to foreclosures, homeowners paying down debt faster through cash-in financing, or consumers shortening their mortgage terms and paying more each month.

Other declines in delinquency rates: Credit cards, auto loans, and more

Consumer finance, bank, and retail credit card delinquency rates of 60 days or more declined as well. Delinquencies in consumer finance, primarily with unsecured lines or loans, have dropped 15 percent, bank credit card delinquency rates have dropped 20 percent, and retail card delinquency rates have decreased 13 percent. Nationwide credit card delinquency rates are actually lower than pre-recession levels.

Meanwhile auto loan delinquency rates have also declined 20 percent and have landed at below pre-recession levels.

Both credit card delinquency and auto loan delinquency rates hovered at around 5 percent pre-recession and have landed at about 3 percent at third quarter’s end, indicating a consumer improvement in credit management.

What’s going on with student loan debts?

Consumer cautiousness, described by Equifax Personal Solutions President Trey Loughran as the “disciplined consumer,” has not extended to the student loan world. Recent graduates may have been struggling to find jobs with an income level high enough to help with paying off their debt.

  • Student loan 60-day delinquency rates increased more than 16 percent year-to-year in the third quarter.
  • Student loan balances increased year over year by $61 billion to $808 billion total.
  • Student loan debt has grown from $400 billion in mid-2007 to $800 billion by the end of September 2012.
  • The number of loans in that same period increased from 50 million to 120 million.

Additionally, there has not been the same push for tighter underwriting standards or guidelines to ensure a loan is safe and secure as there has been with other loans since the start of the recession. Also, unlike with mortgages or credit card debt, which can be wiped out through foreclosure or bankruptcy, student debt must be repaid. With the price of college increasing faster than rate of inflation, student loan debt will likely continue to grow.

The information contained in this blog post is designed to generally educate and inform visitors to the Equifax Finance Blog. The blog posts do not give, and should not be assumed to provide, personalized tax, investment, real estate, legal, retirement, credit, personal financial, or other professional advice. Before making any financial decision, you should always consult with the appropriate professionals who can explain your options, rights, and legal responsibilities, and advise you on any tax, legal, credit, or business implications that may result from those decisions. The views and opinions expressed by the authors of blog posts are their own views and may not be the views or opinions of Equifax, Inc. and/or its affiliates.


  1. m podobnikar says:

    The increasing high cost of college isn’t in the education area, it’s colleges trying to out-do each other by building the best dorms and the prettiest buildings to attract unsuspecting students.

  2. Michelle says:

    How much will my credit drop for being 30 days past due on a credit card? How much will it drop if I decide to go into a hardship program with my credit card which will cause the card to be closed by the company?

    • EFX Moderator, EM says:

      Michelle, I’m sorry to hear that you’re having trouble making on-time payments with your credit cards, but I’m happy to know that you’re taking the steps to address it and you’re wanting to maintain your creditworthiness. It’s hard to know exactly how either situation will affect your credit score, since your score is based off of your entire report. Here are a few things to keep in mind though. Late payments typically stay on your credit report for 7 years, and closing your account will affect the average length of your open accounts, which is a factor in your credit score. Before you decide to go into a hardship program with your credit card company, be sure to ask how it will be reported on your credit report. No matter what you decide to do, I recommend reading this blog on improving your credit score. Please come back if you have any questions. Thanks for posting.

  3. Christina says:

    Michelle: I am a certified credit counselor. Your score will not drop as much on a 30 day late payment as it will by closing your card. On top of that, showing that the card has a history (been on your report for a good amount of time) helps your score. Call the card company, work out a payment to get yourself caught up, and then try to make on time payments. I used to work for a consolidation company. They will work out a payment option for you, but will close your account. See what you can do on your own with the company first. Good luck!

  4. Bob S. says:

    How are early payments treated by Equifax?

    • EFX Moderator, EM says:

      Bob, great question. On-time payments are any payment received before the due date. It’s important to send payments on-time since payment history accounts for 35% of your credit score. Here is more information on your credit score is calculated. Thanks for posting.

  5. Steve in NC says:

    We are considering settling our son’s defaulted student loan for $21,000. He owes $19,000 principal; $3,000 interest; $5,000 penalties and fees. The other option is loan rehab: $165 for ten months then combine all the amounts above into a new loan. The rehab would remove the default status. What affect would the settlement have on credit rating?

    • EFX Moderator, EM says:

      Steve, it’s hard to know for sure since every credit file is unique. Before you decide, be sure you are financially prepared for the decision. You want to know you can meet the financial requirements and still be financially secure. Here’s some information on how credit scores are calculated. I hope this helps.

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