It’s all about jobs. And not just any jobs, either. High-paying jobs.

That’s the secret sauce to Kettering College’s low student loan default rate, say Kettering College officials. The school’s student loan default rate was 2.9 percent, according to the most recent report by the U.S. Department of Education.

It’s more impressive when you compare that to the average Ohio college student loan default rate of 12.2 percent and the national average of 10.8 percent, according to the report. “We fluctuate between the middle 2 percent to the middle 4 percent, which as far as higher ed(ucation) goes that’s very good,” says Adam Brown, the college’s dean of student success.

Very good indeed. And it’s all due to those high-paying, in-demand jobs that Kettering College’s graduates get immediately following graduation, says Nicholas Henson, the college’s director of finance.
 
“Where we come out ahead is our students find employment at high rates,” he says. “It’s the employment of our students that creates that success.”

And the reason Kettering College’s graduates are finding jobs right away is because the degrees they acquire are in the fields of health science, says Brown. “When you look at the Ohio job board and you look at the projections from the Department of Labor seven of the top 10 fastest growing jobs in the state are all health care,” he says.

That’s why Kettering College, which offers eight degree programs in the health science fields, has so many graduates who are successful at getting a high-paying job immediately so they can begin paying off any loans, says Brown. “If students do need to borrow they have a plan for repayment,” he says.

Kettering College offers degree programs in health sciences, human biology, nursing, occupational therapy, physician assistant, radiologic sciences and imaging, respiratory care and sonography. “They’re licensed professionals when they get out and they get jobs that pay decently,” says Henson.

How decent is the pay? “On average they’re getting out of college with their licensure and they’re making somewhere between $25 to $31 dollars an hour,” says Brown. And the ability to earn that much money straight out of college allows them to start making their loan payments within the six-month time frame students have to start repaying loans after they stop attending school, he says. 

The largest degree program is nursing, Brown says. “We usually take in between 80 to 90 (students) each year,” he says. And by the time normal attrition and retention take their toll the school usually graduates between 70 to 80 each year, says Brown.

Most of those nursing graduates are snapped up by health care institutions. “Just in the Dayton area there’s usually well over 1,000 nursing positions between Premier (Health) and Kettering (Health Network) that are open,” says Brown.

More health-care positions continue to open up as health-care workers in the baby-boom generation—those born between 1946 and 1964—retire, he says. “A lot of the rad(iation) tech positions, a lot of the ultrasound tech positions they need to be filled so there’s a lot of demand for health science degrees and so we’re very fortunate in that,” he says.

Henson says there’s a second factor driving the need to replace health-care workers in the baby-boom generation who are retiring. “They’re leaving the workforce and they’re also using health care at a much higher rate,” he says.

Many of Kettering College’s graduates go on to work in the Kettering Health Network, which owns the college, he says. “Kettering College is the education wing of Kettering Health Network and a lot of our employees are continuing education through Kettering College,” says Brown.

One of the main reasons Kettering College exists is to enable the Kettering Health Network to receive employees from its student body, he says. Last year the Kettering Health Network had nearly 800 nursing position openings. “So we’re really working hard to have a collaborative approach,” says Brown.

Another benefit of Kettering Health Network owning Kettering College is the ability to offer discounts of 30 percent on undergraduate tuition to students who work part time for the network while attending school, says Henson. “So it reduces the amount of debt that they have, thus less that they have to pay off when they finish,” he says.

Brown says that’s all part of Kettering College’s strategy to help keep tuition low for students. “We’ve really worked hard to try to create some strategies that lower the cost,” he says.

Another reason Kettering College has such a low student loan default rate is because of the financial counseling services the school offers. Kettering College is able to meet with students in their senior year to discuss their financial situation, says Brown.

During that discussion students and counselors talk about the amount of debt students have and what their options are for repaying the loans in a timely manner, he says. “You could pay it off this fast or you could do the minimum payment and it could take this long,” says Brown.

Those types of discussions with a financial aid counselor are standard with most colleges and universities, he says. “But a lot of times, based on size, it’s just really hard to get everybody when they’re exiting and graduating back in the financial aid office,” Brown says.

Because of Kettering College’s small size it is able to make sure its seniors have that discussion with a financial aid officer, he says. It’s just one more way Kettering College helps its students succeed in the classroom—and in life. 



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