The private student loan default rate remains higher than pre-recession levels despite decreasing year over year in 2012, according to Moody’s Investors Service.

According to the ratings agency quarterly report on non-federally guaranteed student loan performance, the annualized default rate in fourth-quarter 2012 was 4.5%, down from 5.2% in fourth-quarter 2011, for the third consecutive quarter of sizeable year-over-year improvement. But the rate remains nearly twice as high as it was prior to the recession.

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