The vast majority of young Americans want the government to help them deal with their $1.7 trillion student loan debt, but they can’t agree on how that help should be provided.
In reality, according to a nationwide poll issued Monday by the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics, only 38% of Americans support total debt forgiveness, a step that the Democratic Party’s progressive wing has pressed President Joe Biden to take since his inauguration.
Meanwhile, 27% favor the government assisting with debt repayment choices without any debt cancellation, 21% advocate debt cancellation for people in greatest need, and 13% say the government should not change its current policy.
While support for a complete cancellation has climbed by 5 percentage points since 2020, support for the government assisting with repayment has declined by 8 percentage points.
Despite mounting pressure from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and the progressive bloc in the House led by Rep. Ayanna Presley of Massachusetts, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, and others, which both influences and energizes young voters, the president has steadfastly refused to cancel student loan debt.
They’ve claimed that Biden has the administrative authority to cancel $50,000 in federal student loan debt, framing it not only as a method to relieve economic hardship that disproportionately affects low-income Black and Hispanic borrowers but also as an obligation to voters of color who helped him win.
However, Biden has never supported the cancellation of all federal student loan debt, saying even during his campaign that while he supported eliminating up to $10,000 in student loan debt, he did not believe the president had the ability to do so. He’s also expressed reservations about canceling debt for borrowers who attended prestigious universities such as Harvard, implying that large-scale student loan debt cancellation helps wealthier borrowers.
The poll’s lack of consensus reflects the White House’s policy of singling out loan forgiveness for specific groups of borrowers in its first year.
So far, the Biden administration has forgiven more than $17 billion in federal student loan debt for approximately 725,000 borrowers, including $8 billion for borrowers who have become permanently disabled, $7 billion for borrowers in the public service loan forgiveness program, and more than $3 billion for borrowers who were defrauded by their school or enrolled in ITT Technical Institutes before it abruptly closed.
“We’re working very, really hard where we have clear authority to help borrowers,” James Kvaal, the Undersecretary of Education, told reporters last week after unveiling a fresh set of adjustments to federal student loan repayment schemes that will see 40,000 students get their debt forgiven.
“Every day, we’re having discussions about how to improve the programs and bring borrowers the relief they’re entitled to,” he added.
People 18-29 are on track to match 2018’s record-breaking youth turnout during the midterm election this November – and prefer Democratic control – according to the poll, which is updated on a regular basis and considered a bellwether for how young voters will turn out during election years. However, the poll also found a sharp increase in youth believing that “political involvement rarely has tangible results.”