The number of borrowers behind on private student loan payments lat the end of the third quarter declined from the year-earlier period, though it was up slightly over the previous six months, according to MeasureOne.

Early-stage delinquencies (30 to 89 days past due) were 2.8% from at the end of September, down from 3.2% a year earlier, but up from 2.61% at the end of March.

Serious delinquencies (90+ days past due) were just 2.12%, from both the year-earlier period (2.38%) and the six-months earlier period (2.20%).

MeasureOne publishes performance data twice a year.

Borrowers generally use private student loans to cover gaps between the cost of education and the amount of financing they can obtain in the form of federally guaranteed loans. Since the financial crisis, lenders still in business have tightened underwriting criteria, increased their use of co-signers who have a documented ability to repay, and have asked schools to verify the amount that students need to borrow before disbursing directly to the school.

Early and late stage delinquency rates averaged 2.8% and 2.2%, respectively, for the latest four quarters and show year-over-year declines of approximately 13% and 11% respectively.

The annualized charge-off rates for the third quarter was 2.2%, down from 2.4% a year earlier 2.71% six months earlier.

Delinquencies have dropped while lenders continue to use forbearance judiciously, with only 2.2% of loans in forbearance as of the third quarter.

MeasureOne said loan performance continues to improve with each subsequent origination vintage. Delinquencies and charge-offs have generally declined for each successive vintage in each quarter after origination.

This report is based on data contributed by the six largest lenders/holders of school-certified private education loans within the MeasureOne Data Consortium, including Citizens Bank, N.A.; Discover Bank; Navient; PNC Bank; Sallie Mae Bank and Wells Fargo. Cumulatively, these participants account for the majority of both outstanding private student loans and new originations.

The entire private student loan market is estimated to be $99.7 billion, or 7.6% of the $1.31 trillion student loan market. The six participants represent approximately 66.7% of the entire private student loan market.

As of the end of the third quarter, total balances of the six Consortium Participants edged up 3.5% year-over-year to $66.5 billion, reflecting modest growth of 2.6% in balances for undergraduate loans, which represent 76.7% of all balances. In addition, there was growth of 17.2% in the smaller ‘other’ program category (10.6% of balances) which includes consolidation/refinance loans and loans that are not coded by the participants as graduate or undergraduate.

The percentage of loans in active repayment status has seen moderate growth over the last two years and is at 75.6% as of the end of September.

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