student loans
Image: Paul Sakuma, AP

More than 260 colleges and universities in 40 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have students who are more likely to default on their loans than full-time freshmen are to graduate, an analysis of federal data shows.

Hundreds of thousands of students are enrolled at the 265 schools, nearly half of which are operated by for-profit colleges, a USA TODAY analysis shows. About one-third of the schools they attended were are public community colleges.

“These colleges should set off a red flag in the minds of prospective student borrowers — and their parents,” says Andrew Gillen, research director for Education Sector, a non-profit, non-partisan think-tank on education policy that gathered the federal data. “Many students at these colleges will no doubt take out loans, graduate and get good jobs. But the high default rates and lower graduation rates suggest that many will not.”

The analysis comes amid controversy as Congress decides whether to intervene to stop interest rates on new federally subsidized student loans from doubling. The lower interest rates expired Monday.

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