Finance

Voters Are Nearly Split on Biden’s Move to Cancel at Least $10,000 in Student Loan Debt

Administration’s plans to extend the pause on federal student loan debt payments and decrease the amount borrowers need to pay back each month are backed by a majority of voters

Projections outside of the Department of Education celebrate the pause on federal student loan debt payments and ask Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to cancel student debt on March 14, 2022, in Washington, D.C. A Morning Consult/Politico survey found that the Biden administration’s move to cancel between $10,000-$20,000 of student loan debt for individuals earning less than $125,000 and households earning less than $250,000 is supported by 48% of voters and opposed by 43%. (Paul Morigi/Getty Images)

Following the release of President Joe Biden’s student loan debt relief plan, a new Morning Consult/Politico survey finds that registered voters are mostly divided when it comes to canceling $10,000 to $20,000 for certain borrowers. 

3 in 4 Voters Would Support Biden Administration Effort to Tackle Higher Education Costs

Respondents were asked whether they support or oppose the following actions that the Biden administration has taken or could take on student loan debt:

Survey conducted Aug. 26–28, 2022, among a representative sample of 2,007 registered voters, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points. Figures may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

Republican voters mostly oppose the student debt relief plan’s elements, and voters overall are split on whether or not the plan is fair

  • Extending the student loan payment moratorium, removing interest for payers who are up to date on their debt payments and lowering monthly payments for borrowers were all measures in Biden’s plan supported by more than half of registered voters. In all three cases, GOP backing was at least 40 percentage points lower than Democrats’ support. 
  • Three-quarters of registered voters said they would support a plan by the White House to address high college tuition costs, including 86% of Democrats and 68% of Republicans.
  • When asked whether they believe Biden has the authority to cancel student loans without congressional authorization, 46% of voters said the move was within his power, while 40% said they believed the plan was an overreach. 
  • As to questions of fairness on Biden’s move to cancel between $10,000 and $20,000 of loan debt for those earning less than $125,000 or $250,000 for households, 48% said the plan was fair and 44% said it was unfair. Among GOP voters, 56% said the debt forgiveness was “very unfair.” 

Criticisms of the student loan debt forgiveness plan abound, as organizations question fairness, legality

The White House’s long-awaited student debt relief plan promised to ease the burden of loan payments for approximately 43 million borrowers, but soon after the Biden administration’s announcement, some critics argued that the plan was merely a Band-Aid that didn’t address rising tuition rates or the high cost of for-profit schools

Many student loan borrowers, even those who qualify for some forgiveness, wondered if the plan went far enough, given that many borrowers are plagued not only by the original loan amounts, but by compound interest that makes paying down the principal difficult. And the NAACP has continued to push for greater financial forgiveness, saying the $10,000 to $20,000 level in the current plan doesn’t go far enough to relieve the debt burden for Black borrowers, who have nearly $53,000 in loan debt on average four years after graduating.

Sharp criticism about the fairness of debt cancellation also prompted the White House to take to social media to point out Republican lawmakers who had benefited from Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness. Biden went so far as to respond to a reporter who pressed on the fairness issue, saying, “Is it fair to people who, in fact, do not own multibillion dollar businesses, if they see one of these guys getting all the tax breaks? Is that fair?”

Questions also arose about the president’s legal authority to issue such a financially significant executive order without congressional approval. Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt (R) said his office is “actively” looking at legal options to halt the forgiveness plan, and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) has said he believes there is past legal precedent that supports an argument against the president having the authority to implement the plan. 

Republicans are now on the hunt for a plaintiff to bring legal action against the administration, though the White House has said that the COVID-19 pandemic qualifies as a national emergency under the HEROES Act of 2003, which granted the Secretary of Education the authority to make changes to student financial assistance during such unprecedented events. 

 

The latest Morning Consult/Politico survey was conducted Aug. 26-28, 2022, among a representative sample of 2,007 registered voters, with an unweighted margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Morning Consult