WASHINGTON (AP) — The Education Department on Wednesday reported a drop in the percentage of people who are defaulting on repaying student loans in the first years after they are due.

More than 4.7 million borrowers began paying back in the 2011 budget year, and about 650,000 have defaulted, which is about 13.7 percent. A year earlier, the rate was 14.7 percent.

If the default rate for students at a specific school is too high, then students there could be barred from participating in federal financial aid programs.

The borrowers attended about 5,900 U.S. schools.

“We will also continue working with institutions to ensure they are providing their students with the information and guidance the students need to repay their loans after they graduate,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement.

For-profit institutions had the highest default rate, 19.1 percent, which dropped from 21.8 percent a year earlier.

The rate at public institutions was 12.9 percent, compared with 13 percent. It was 7.2 percent for private nonprofit schools, a decrease from 8.2 percent.

The department said that based on the rates, it was taking action against one adult and continuing education school and 20 for-profit schools. Many are cosmetology schools.

Also Wednesday, the Census Bureau said that college enrollment declined by nearly a half-million students between 2012 and 2013, marking the second year in a row for a large decrease. The agency said the two-year drop of 930,000 was larger than any before the recent economic downturn.

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Kimberly Hefling can be followed at http://twitter.com/khefling

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