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Here's why Student Loan Forgiveness Will be a key Election Issue in US Presidential Polls

Almost 50% voters say canceling student loan debt is an important issue in the upcoming elections.
Cover Image Source: A woman marks down her vote on a ballot | Getty Images | Photo by Samuel Corum
Cover Image Source: A woman marks down her vote on a ballot | Getty Images | Photo by Samuel Corum

Presidential elections are getting closer and the current economic conditions as well as relief for people in this climate are key talking points for all candidates. According to a recent survey by SocialSphere, student loan forgiveness is a significant issue for almost half of all voters. The survey, which polled 3,812 registered voters between March 15-19, highlighted the sentiments of various demographics regarding the pressing matter of student debt.

Unsplash | Photo by javier trueba
Image Source: Unsplash | Photo by javier trueba

According to the findings, 48% of voters consider canceling student loan debt an important issue in the upcoming elections. Particularly striking was the overwhelming support among younger demographics, with 70% of Gen Z respondents expressing the importance of this action alongside 72% of Black voters, and 68% of Hispanic voters.

"This survey shows that most voters, regardless of age, believe that taking a loan to pay for education should not result in a lifetime of debt," John Della Volpe, CEO of SocialSphere said. The report laid emphasis on the growing demand for addressing the staggering $1.6 trillion outstanding education debt burdening Americans, surpassing even credit card and auto debt averages.

The survey further revealed that around 7 in 10 voters advocate for governmental action on student loan debt, with 50% supporting either partial or complete loan cancellation. Notably, a significant majority of Gen Z and millennial Democrats, comprising 81% of respondents, favored loan forgiveness. Additionally, 53% of Gen Z participants reported personal or household student debt.

Student Loan Borrowers Gathering | Getty Images | Photo by Paul Morigi
Image Source: Student Loan Borrowers Gathering | Getty Images | Photo by Paul Morigi

Over the past three decades, the cost of college education has seen a steady rise, creating a significant financial burden for students. Tuition fees at public four-year colleges have surged from $4,160 to $10,740, while those at private nonprofit institutions have doubled from $19,360 to $38,070.

Consequently, the reliance on student loans and other forms of financial aid has increased proportionately. Presently, more than half of all students graduate with debt, highlighting the pervasive nature of this issue.

On average, each borrower owes $28,950, contributing to the staggering total student loan debt in the United States, which currently stands at $1.75 trillion. The bulk of this debt, approximately 92%, comprises federal student loans, with the remaining portion attributed to private student loans.

Among students attending public four-year institutions, 55% have taken on student loans to finance their education, while the figure rises to 57% for students at private nonprofit four-year institutions.

Melissa Byrne, We The 45 Million, joins student loan borrowers to demand President Biden use
Image Source: Student loan borrowers demand loan cancellation | Photo by Paul Morigi | Getty Images for We The 45 Million

Surprisingly, the issue of student loan forgiveness has garnered support even among young Republicans, with 49% expressing a desire to erase some or all outstanding education debt. Historically viewed as a partisan issue, debt cancellation now transcends party lines, posing a challenge to traditional political alignments.

The survey also indicated a divergence in priorities among older demographics, with just 37% of baby boomers and silent generation voters considering student debt cancellation important in the upcoming elections.

This is further reflected in the reluctance of older Republican voters, particularly Gen Xers, to endorse loan forgiveness measures.

Student debt relief activists participate in a rally | Getty Images | Kevin Dietsch
Image Source: Student debt relief activists participate in a rally | Getty Images | Photo by Kevin Dietsch

Biden's administration has sought to address student debt through existing authority, despite facing legal setbacks. Meanwhile, Trump's opposition to debt cancellation aligns with the Supreme Court's ruling against Biden's ambitious loan forgiveness plan.

"The Republican party’s steadfast opposition to student debt relief remains a wildly unpopular stance—even with a majority of younger Republican voters," said Mike Pierce, executive director of Protect Borrowers Action.