The Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, a lobbying association that represents for-profit colleges, declined to comment on the default rates.
President Barack Obama has emphasized a need for greater outreach to students to ensure they are aware of more flexible and income-driven repayment options, both before they take out loans and before they being repayment, and also suggested that default rates should be a factor in his proposed college rating system that would tie federal financial aid to college performance measures of quality and affordability.
In his Aug. 22 speech announcing the plan, Obama proposed making all federal loan borrowers eligible for the Pay As You Earn program, which caps monthly loan payments at 10 percent of a borrower's income. Currently, students who first borrowed before 2008 or have not borrowed since 2011 are not eligible for the program.
In order to increase awareness, Obama suggested launching an enrollment campaign to reach out to struggling borrowers, an endeavor which Duncan told The New York Times the department will begin this month.
Despite the fact that millions of borrowers are currently in default, fewer than 10 percent are enrolled in an income-based repayment plan, according to recent data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
"The more than 600,000 borrowers who defaulted on their loans in the last few years deserved to know all their options before it was too late," said Lauren Asher, president of TICAS, in a statement. Obama's proposal to expand outreach to certain borrowers, Asher said, "is sorely needed to keep more borrowers from falling through the cracks."