More Than Half Americans Want All Student Loan Debt Forgiven, According to New Poll

Democratic lawmakers could cut $50,000 in student debt with the stroke of a pen. But one new poll says that most people support even broader loan forgiveness.

An image of a graduation cap on a pile of money.
Photo: Getty Images.

In February, Democratic lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, put forth a plan to forgive $50,000 in student debt for all borrowers. President Joe Biden could grant this forgiveness through executive action, although he's yet to sign on the dotted line.

But that number isn't nearly enough if you ask many Americans, according to a recent poll by the personal finance portal GoBankingRates. Roughly 52 percent of the 3,600 adults surveyed agreed with "blanket student loan forgiveness for every borrower."

Not everyone felt the same way, as 20 percent of those surveyed said they didn't want the federal government to undertake loan forgiveness at all. Another 12 percent of folks agreed that the government should only forgive loans for low-income borrowers who are also high in debt, while 11 percent supported loan forgiveness for individuals in public service. Four percent of those surveyed backed temporary forgiveness through the pandemic.

Nationwide, student loan debt is up to $1.68 trillion, far outpacing the nation's economic growth. And that crisis isn't just a Millennial and Gen-Z issue. Many parents have gone into debt to help their children pay for school, as money owed in Parent PLUS loans (or loans parents can take out on behalf of their children) has spiked by $10 billion in the past two years. Reports show that 20 percent of the country's student debt is owed by people 50 years of age and older, and loan forgiveness would help older Americans the most.

And yet, GoBankingRates' poll indicates that adults ages 65 and older remain more divided than younger generations on this issue, with 39 percent supporting blanket student loan forgiveness and 36 percent believing that the federal government shouldn't forgive loans at all.

The debate on loan forgiveness comes at a time when tuition is skyrocketing. U.S. News reports that, over the past 20 years, the average tuition and fees for private universities have risen by 144 percent. In that same period, in-state tuition and fees for public universities have skyrocketed by 212 percent, while out-of-state public university tuition and fees have increased by 165 percent.

What can parents do to avoid racking up debt and help their children navigate college finances? Here are a few expert-backed tips:

  • Open a 529 savings plan. These state-sponsored mutual investment funds accumulate tax-free. A child must use them for educational purposes, though, or any withdrawals will be subject to a tax penalty.
  • Have your child apply for grants and scholarships. This type of financial aid does not need to be repaid, unlike loans.
  • Communicate with your child. In 2019, most parents said they planned to help pay for some of their child's college costs, but they expected their kid to contribute, too. Speak with your child about what you can do early so they can factor finances into their decisions about education.
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