Biden should tackle college costs over debt cancellation

A poll by NPR and Ipsos found that while debt forgiveness is popular among Americans, a majority would prefer the Biden administration to focus on efforts to make college more affordable.

The poll of more than 1,000 Americans provided insight into how borrowers and those without student debt feel about various aspects of President Biden’s promised plan to cancel at least some student debt.

More than half of all respondents, both those with loans and those without, support a move by Biden to alleviate at least $10,000 in student debt per borrower, which has been reported as the administration’s most likely proposal. On the other hand, 82% said Biden should prioritize making college more affordable over debt cancellation.

Biden should limit debt cancellation to people earning less than $150,000 a year. The poll found that the income limits did not change respondents’ opinion of the president’s impending proposal.

The survey found that support for debt relief was more common among people with student debt. Of borrowers with remaining balances, 84% backed $10,000 in relief, while 68% backed the administration canceling all student debt. Half of respondents with no student debt favored $10,000 debt relief, while only 37% favored full debt forgiveness.

However, survey respondents overwhelmingly said the Biden administration should prioritize making college more affordable over canceling student debt. Many higher education officials agree, saying the administration should focus on investing in long-term solutions to meet the cost of a college education that will help prospective students avoid debt. heavily.

Among respondents with debt, 82% agreed that making college more affordable should be a priority, and 59% of respondents without debt agreed.

Long-term solutions that have been proposed by some lawmakers and advocates for affordable education include a tuition-free community college, doubling the Pell Grant, and reforms to the student loan system.

A June study by the American Action Forum found that federal student loan debt would return to its current level by 2026 if Biden canceled $10,000 in student debt per borrower.

Additionally, some experts have expressed concern that loan forgiveness could give a false promise to future borrowers, who may expect another round of debt forgiveness for themselves.

“If we cancel people’s debt today with a huge, across-the-board cancellation program, I worry what that might do to people’s willingness or desire to borrow in the future. Specifically, if people anticipate another round of loan write-offs, they’re likely to spend more and borrow more than they otherwise would have, which only exacerbates the problem we have on our hands.” , said Beth Akers, senior economics researcher. of education at the right-wing American Enterprise Institute.

Debt relief critics have argued that graduate students should not be included in Biden’s plans to alleviate student debt. According to the survey, 65% of respondents said debt forgiveness should apply to undergraduate and graduate degree holders. Only 30% thought debt forgiveness should be reserved for undergraduate students.

The poll also explored how borrowers managed their debt throughout the federal payment pause, which began in March 2020 and has been extended several times. Throughout the pause, 57% of borrowers said they had made no payments on their student loans. The pause is due to expire at the end of August, and it is unclear whether the Biden administration will implement another extension of the pause.

Nearly half of survey respondents said the break had improved their mental health and they could spend more money on things like food, rent, gas, paying off other debts or contributing more savings.

“We’re going to have significant challenges getting millions of people on board for reimbursement at a time when year-over-year inflation is approaching double digits,” said Association President Justin Draeger. national student financial aid administrators.

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