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A Quick Breakdown of How Americans Feel About Canceling Student Loan Debt

As the Biden administration weighed extending a pandemic-era pause on student loan payments, a poll Wednesday revealed deep generational and partisan rifts on forgiving such debts.

SO WHAT

The biggest would-be beneficiaries of the progressive policy are highly educated, high-income individuals, in other words, people who look an awful lot like progressives.

THE NUMBERS

The Morning Consult/Politico poll of 1,998 registered voters found 1 in 5 supported forgiving student debt entirely, whereas 3 in 10 said no debt should be canceled.

The issue divided Americans by party and age.

  • 85% of Democrats said they support student loan forgiveness in some form.
  • Almost half of Republicans said no student loan debt should be forgiven.

WHY PEOPLE ARE TALKING ABOUT THIS NOW

Under pressure from progressive activists, President Joe Biden later Wednesday extended the pause on loan repayments until May 1, a reversal of his administration’s previous stance.

  • Progressives in Congress, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., had been clamoring for the executive action.

WHO BENEFITS

Progressives have framed student loan debt forgiveness as a boon to working class and low-income Americans.

  • However, overall, according to the Brookings Institution, high-income, highly educated households have the biggest share of student loan debt and so stand to gain the most from any relief measures.
  • As Brookings fellows Sandy Baum and Adam Looney noted in Oct. 2020, the “fact that households in the upper half of the income distribution and those with graduate degrees hold a disproportionate share of” Americans’ $1.5 trillion student debt rarely makes it into news headlines and stories on the issue.

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