Report assesses support for student loan forgiveness across policy lines
The combination of a coronavirus-halted economy, an upcoming election and an ever-worsening student debt crisis has propelled the topic of student loan forgiveness to the forefront of the national conversation. these last weeks.
But who – and who doesn’t – support the cancellation of student loans? The answer may not be as bipartisan as previously assumed, suggests a study published by College Financewhich surveyed more than 1,100 Americans by political affiliation, age, and debt status.
When asked the general question, “Would you support a student loan forgiveness program?” The opinions generally matched party lines, with 84% of Democratic respondents expressing some degree of support compared to 50% of Republicans reporting similar support.
However, when it comes to the thorniest facets of student loan forgiveness — its ethics, feasibility and specific policies — party lines have become more blurred, says project manager John Bernasconi. for college finances.
“We were pleasantly surprised to discover how much our participants beliefs and preferences have defied strict party lines, as well as their willingness to acknowledge points that contradict or challenge the position on student loan forgiveness that we support,” Bernasconi wrote in an email to Miscellaneous.
He said that because we often talk about student debt relief in “all or nothing” and “good and bad” terms, the objective of the study was “to dig deeper.”
So, the authors “digged deeper” by asking about seven specific policies related to student debt forgiveness, ranging from full student debt forgiveness, to income-based forgiveness, to cancellation of interest on student loans. What they found was that 81% of Republican respondents supported at least one of the forgiveness plans — a significant jump from the 50% of Republicans who said they would support student loan forgiveness.
Additionally, the study also asked respondents how realistic they thought each policy plan was, revealing stark differences between support and perceived feasibility among Democrats. For example, although 80% of Democrats supported a full pardon, only 34% felt it was realistic. Alternatively, when presented with an “income-based monthly payment discount” plan, perceived feasibility among Democrats skyrocketed to 76%.
Interestingly, regardless of party affiliation, students in debt were more likely to view remission plans as realistic, leading the authors to question whether “optimism about political change” is a common coping strategy for living under the weight of debt.
The study then asked questions about the potential advantages and disadvantages of student loan forgiveness, addressing questions such as who would unwittingly benefit or suffer from student loan forgiveness. Here, too, they found similarities between the parties.
For example, a majority of Democrats and Republicans — 66% and 81%, respectively — believed that canceling student loans would not address the root cause of high education costs. And, similarly, 52% of Democrats and 69% of Republicans agreed that it could eventually reward colleges that have unfairly raised education costs.
The study also raised questions of ethics and equity, such as: “Is loan forgiveness fair to those who have made cost-conscious education choices? Such questions have generated heated debates. On this issue, the authors found that bipartisan lines were reforming, with 75% of Republicans and 46% of Democrats saying the pardon would be unfair to those who made cost-conscious choices.
Similarly, 73% of Republicans, versus 43% of Democrats, said the pardon would shift tax revenue from “responsible people” to “irresponsible people”.
However, when asked if offering large loans to teenagers fresh out of high school was exploitative, the margin of difference between the parties narrowed further, with 67% of Democrats and 55% of Republicans having answered “yes”.
Moreover, both parties‘ supporters, totaling 83% overall, seemed to particularly agree on one thing: that student debt impacts the quality of life of young adults, preventing them from reaching life milestones, like marriage or children.
“Political issues such as student loan forgiveness are complicated and nuanced, and we were delighted to see those qualities reflected in our participants’ responses,” Bernasconi said.. “Many people from all political walks of life have demonstrated their knowledge, consideration and understanding of the underlying aspects of student loan forgiveness.”
Meanwhile, a study author said support for student loan forgiveness is likely to grow in popularity as the coronavirus spreads across the United States and comes at a significant financial cost to millions of Americans. The study was conducted shortly before the coronavirus began to emerge as a global threat.
“If I had to speculate, I would say that the coronavirus is likely to make most categories of respondents more supportive of student loan forgiveness provisions than they were before the crisis began,” Kristyn Pilgrim said. in an email to Diverse. “It is generally accepted that COVID-19 will lead to sudden and high unemployment rates which are likely to impact younger workers who are more likely to carry student loan debt. At present, the public is generally in favor of broad government intervention to financially support large segments of the population, especially the most vulnerable.