Americans have a diverse view of student debt relief is sharply divided along generational and partisan lines, as polls show -and with smaller gaps between those with an undergraduate degree instead of those who don’t.
President Joe Biden has announced that he was considering alternatives to meet his campaign promise to ease the burden of student debt and a plan that would limit relief to a maximum of $10,000 per person and exclude borrowers with higher incomes. The Biden administration has already canceled over $18.5 billion in student debt via the existing forgiveness programs and granted various extensions to the pandemic-era deadline for student loan repayments.
Around half of Americans (49%) consider that they believe that the US government is doing little to tackle student debt, as revealed by the results of a CNN poll that was conducted by SSRS in May and April, with 24% of respondents saying that the government is taking too much. The rest think that the current policy is just right. In comparison, 81% of respondents believe that the government is not taking enough actions to combat inflation.
The majority of Democrats (56 percent) and a more significant majority of those who self-describe as liberals (69 percent) believe that the government isn’t doing enough on student loan debt, as per the CNN poll. Only 33% of Republicans and self-described conservatives agree with the same. Seventy percent of those younger than 35 believe the government is doing little. This figure is reduced to 50% in those in the 35-49 age group and 35% for the 50-plus age group.
There are also income and racial gaps: Six in 10 people of color believe that the government is not doing enough compared to 42 percent of White Americans who say the same. In addition, 57% of those living in households that earn less than $50,000 a year want to see more action from the government than 42% of families with higher incomes.
However, there’s not much difference between those who have a college degree and those who don’t have a degree: 50 percent of Americans with no college degrees believe that the government needs to take more actions to reduce the student loans, and 47% of graduates from colleges.
Younger adults tend to favor government action regarding student loans; their opinions differ on social and political lines. In a poll conducted in March of Americans aged 18-29 that was carried out by the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School, 38% of the young adults thought that the government should be able to cancel student loan debt for all, 21% said that debt cancellation should be reserved “only for those most in need,” 27 percent said that the government shouldn’t be able to cancel debts, but instead assist with repayment options and 13% who believe there shouldn’t be any change in policy by the government on the subject.
Around half of the young Democrats (48 percent) believed that the government should end the entire student debt, with 77% saying that the government should eliminate the obligation of at least a portion of Americans. Among younger Republicans, 20% supported the cancellation of all student loans, and 35% believed that at least some of the debts ought to be canceled.
Half of the young Black Americans supported entirely canceling student loan debts, as compared to 43 percent of Hispanic young adults as well as 38% of younger Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and 33 percent of white young adults. There was a surprisingly small distinction between college students currently (41 percent of them believed that all student loans should be canceled) and college graduates (39 percent of them stated the same) as well as those that had not had a degree nor were currently in college (36 percent).
The Harvard survey also found respondents that in the event being asked about the most critical national problem that worried them the most, only 1percent of young adults were concerned about the cost of education or student debt; 19%, in contrast, we’re concerned about inflation or economics overall.
Although surveys give a precise picture of how Americans are divided over student loan policies, they’re not as consistent with the overall level of support for government intervention. There’s a reason behind this, as pollsters’ approach to the issue differs widely. Specific surveys, for example, ask about the support or disapproval of one particular plan, whereas others outline a variety of options.
In an Axios/Ipsos poll in August, for example, 55 percent of Americans favored “forgiving or erasing, all federal student loan debt”; however, 44% opposed it. In the March 2021 survey from Grinnell College that asked Americans to select between three different policies that only 27% of respondents chose to forgive student loans to anyone with debt from student loans, while 39% said they would ignore the loans of students “only for those in need” and 29% believed that such loans should not be forgiven at any time.
When taken together, these numbers indicate that, with the magnitude and the scope of government actions on student loan debt not yet known, the public’s opinion about the possibility of response is uncertain. There are plenty of supporters of a specific policy on student debt. However, there isn’t a consensus on the form it should take. There is a lot of space for Americans to shift their opinions in response to the specifics of any proposed policy and the political nature of its implementation.