More Americans believe that we should forgive all federal student debt than feel that the recipients should pay their loans back. In a shocking survey recently conducted by MoneyTips.com, nearly 42% agreed with the statement, I believe President Trump's Department of Education should forgive all federal student debt to help the economy. Less than 37% disagreed, while the remaining 21% neither agreed nor disagreed.
"It is surprising that the majority of the US population supports this measure," says Brandon Yahn, Founder of studentloansguy.com. "Perhaps this student debt burden has spread more across all generations, and popular sentiment is turning the corner as it relates to student debt."
The exclusive survey of 466 Americans, conducted in June, found that more than 25% strongly agreed with the statement, while 18% strongly disagreed. If this became the law of the land, it would mean American taxpayers forgiving around $1.3 trillion in debt, which Trump and his Education Secretary Betsy DeVos do not seem inclined to do. As a candidate, Trump proposed student loan forgiveness after 15 years of repayment, but Trump and DeVos' initial education budget reportedly seeks to eliminate current forgiveness programs.
While income wasn't a factor, gender seemed to affect people's feelings on this subject, with more women favoring forgiveness over men. 47% of the women agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, while less than 36% of the men felt the same way. Conversely, more than 40% of the men disagreed at some level, compared to less than 34% of the women. Less than 15% of the women surveyed felt strongly that the borrowers should live up to their obligations to pay back their loans. Since a recent study showed that women hold nearly two-thirds of aggregate student debt, perhaps sisters are doin' it for themselves.
Reasoned millennial money expert Stefanie O'Connell, "Women are now more likely than men to get a college degree, which may explain why they would favor student loan forgiveness at higher rates. They're also likely to experience career interruptions due to childbearing and caretaking, which can impede their lifetime earning potential and, consequently, their ability to pay back their loans. Finally, many of the lucrative jobs that don't require a college degree tend to be in male-dominated fields - carpentry, electrical, etc. - which might explain why more women favor loan forgiveness."
Younger people also tended to forgive the student loans, with those aged 18-49 clearly for it, while those 50 and up wanted the loans repaid. 30% of the younger group strongly agreed with the statement, while less than 19% of the older group strongly agreed. Of course, older people are not immune from the sting of student loan repayment.
Adds Stefanie O'Connell, author of The Broke and Beautiful Life, "The average student loan debt has increased around $19,000 in just the past 14 years, so I can see why younger borrowers would be more eager to see student loans forgiven."
Brandon Yahn, who himself paid back more than $40,000 in student loans, says, "Most young people (especially millennials) have seen how much of a burden student debt has had on them and their peers, so it's not a surprise that they would be interested in having all student debt taken away. This was clearly seen last year in the support that Bernie Sanders was able to garner in pushing for tuition-free college."
Presidential preference certainly influenced the results, but not always as expected. Donald Trump supporters surveyed were against the concept of student debt forgiveness. Among the 164 winning voters who participated, the group who strongly disagreed was only one larger than the group who strongly agreed with the statement. Nevertheless, 25% simply disagreed with the statement, while less than 15% just agreed. Overall, nearly 48% of the Trump voters were against the idea, while less than 37% supported it.
People who reported that they voted for Clinton were more likely to support the idea of forgiving federal student debt. 31% of the 156 Clinton voters who took part agreed strongly, while 16% more merely agreed. Contrast that to 14% who disagreed strongly and the 17% who disagreed.
Since there were more Trump supporters than Clinton supporters in the survey, why did the overall numbers skew Clinton's way? The people who didn't vote in the 2016 Presidential election also want to wipe the student debt slate clean. More than 43% of them agreed or agreed strongly with the statement, while only 25% of them disagreed to some degree.
While non-voters' views were similar to those of Clinton supporters, Americans who voted for third-party or write-in candidates surprisingly answered similarly to the Trump voters. 31% of them disagreed strongly with the statement, while less than 23% agreed strongly. Senator Bernie Sanders suggested free college tuition and lower interest rates for student borrowers during his ill-fated presidential campaign. Bucking stereotypes, the few "Bernie Bros" surveyed were even more opposed to student loan debt forgiveness than Trump supporters. Our favorite write-in candidate gleaned from the survey: Ivana Do Over!
Says Student Loan Hero expert Miranda Marquit, "Many millennials, who thought they were doing the right thing, took on student loan debt only to graduate to an economy where jobs have been scarce and wages have been mostly stagnant for decades. Gone are the days when you could work for the summer and pay for the following school year. As a society, we sold a dream and failed to deliver. You can make payments on your loans for decades and barely make headway." Adds Marquit, "As a result, these millennials are unable to help the economy in other ways. Research indicates they are putting off financial milestones that come with economy-building benefits. All the consumption that comes with things like buying homes and starting families is being lost because the largest generation yet doesn't have money to spare. Student loan forgiveness would go a long way toward helping millennials feel stable enough to take the next steps in their financial lives, as well as even starting businesses."