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Jun 01, 2020 02:19 PM EDT

American Voters' Perceptions of Student Loan Forgiveness

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American Voters' Perceptions of Student Loan Forgiveness

(Photo : American Voters' Perceptions of Student Loan Forgiveness)

It's an issue that has been on the minds of not only borrowers but politicians as well - student loan forgiveness. For most students who want to attend college, student loans, scholarships, or grants are how they pay for their tuition. 

But how are American voters reacting to student loan forgiveness plans? In a new study, CollegeFinance.com surveyed more than 1,100 Americans about their perceptions of student loan forgiveness and its fairness. Here are some of the eye-opening results. 

Support for Forgiveness

According to the study, people were generally twice as likely to support a student loan forgiveness plan. Nearly 1 in 3 respondents strongly supported student loan forgiveness, compared to just 13% of people who strongly opposed it. 

The results were broken down by political affiliation, and Democrats (45%) were 2.5 times more likely than Republicans (18%) to support student loan debt be removed across the nation. Approximately 1 in 3 Independents supported a forgiveness plan as well. But Republicans were the only political group that strongly opposed (23%) wiping out student loan debt more than they agreed (18%).

Among respondents with student loan debt, 1 in 3 Republicans and 2 in 3 Democrats strongly supported student loan forgiveness. Democrats with student loan debt were the most likely (68%) to recommend student loan forgiveness strongly, but Republicans who repaid their debt (28%) were most likely to strongly oppose a forgiveness plan.

Potential Solutions

Student loan forgiveness is often debated in general terms, but many different plans could be utilized instead of completely wiping out student loan debt. How did respondents feel about different methods?

Approximately 7 in 10 people supported removing interest from student loans; 65% agreed with income-based, month-by-month payment reductions; and 59% said income-based, month-by-month payment forgiveness would be a suitable option. Half of those surveyed said complete student loan forgiveness is preferable. 

Almost all (89%) respondents with student loan debt supported at least one of the forgiveness plans. More than 3 in 4 people who'd already repaid their debt agreed with at least one of the proposed methods. 

In reality, did people think these plans could come to fruition? The income-based, month-by-month payment reduction plan is the one most respondents felt could happen (65%). Forgiving interest was a close second (63%). More than half (56%) of voters felt that forgiving student loan debt below a certain amount would eventually pass into law. Only 27% of those surveyed felt complete forgiveness of student loan debt could be a reality. 

Pros and Cons of Student Loan Forgiveness

Almost all (89%) participants in the study felt student loan forgiveness would benefit certain people. Nearly 2 in 3 respondents thought it would help the country as a whole. But only 37% felt there could be downsides of student loan forgiveness, and 42% thought it could negatively affect the country. 

However, 3 in 4 participants felt that removing student loans would allow many people to lead a better life, but it would not address why the cost of education is so high. Moreover, 65% felt it would be unfair to implement such a plan, while 63% felt the benefits outweighed the downsides. 

Overall, 63% felt that it was exploitative to offer large loans to teenagers. Among respondents with student loan debt, 89% of Democrats and 59% of Republicans believed student loan debt forgiveness would be fair for all Americans.

Loan Forgiveness and the 2020 Election

More than 1 in 4 people believed that the issue of student loan forgiveness will be crucial in the 2020 election, with Democrats (26%) more likely to think so than Republicans (14%). Approximately 1 in 3 respondents revealed they would vote for any candidate that claims they would put such a plan in place. 

With the ever-rising cost of tuition and interest rates for school loans, this issue is something that seems to be on the mind of voters. Even though respondents felt that Donald Trump (14%) is slightly more likely than possible Democratic candidate Joe Biden (12%) to forgive student loan debt successfully, it will be interesting to hear the frontrunners' thoughts on the issue.

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