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President Joe Biden promised to forgive $10,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower while on the campaign trail. Now, Biden was far from the most progressive or excited about student debt forgiveness—Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, for example, pledged to forgive far more. But still, Biden (seemed) to hear the calls of the voters and made a promise. As of now, he has extended a pause on federal student loans (originally established by Trump), but has not acted on his promise.
Why not? The White House has been dancing around the issue of who can forgive the debt—Warren, for instance, argues the president can cancel the debt by executive order. Other Democrats argue cancellation is possible, but it needs to be done through Congress. That’s the line White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki seems to take when asked about Biden’s inaction. But an undercurrent to all of this is the question of what voters want. Is student loan debt something only millennials with tons of debt care about? According to recent polling from Data for Progress, that’s actually far from the case.
Before we get into the numbers, here’s some background on the polling: Data for Progress conducted the survey from Feb. 4 to Feb. 6, 2022 in English and online. It included just over 1,100 likely voters. The sample was weighted to be representative of likely voters by age, education, race, and so on. It has a margin of error of ±3 percentage points. You can check out the crosstabs to see more details on the data here.
According to this polling, more than 60% of likely voters support the federal government canceling some if not all student debt for borrowers. Less than one-third of voters expressed the belief that the government should not cancel any debt.
In specifics, the majority of voters without college degrees actually support some degree of debt forgiveness, coming in at 61%. Of voters who don’t have student debt (which is a separate consideration from people without a degree), 58% support forgiveness. More than half of poll respondents (57%) of voters over 45 support cancellation.
Interestingly, respondents were more likely to support debt forgiveness for low- or middle-income debt holders versus forgiving for all holders. This breaks down to 29% support for canceling all debt for low- and middle-income holders, 37% for eliminating some debt, and 27% for supporting no debt at all.
We know student debt forgiveness is a racial justice issue, with Latino and Black borrowers carrying a disproportionate student debt weight. Black students, for example, are forced to take out more student loans than white students on average. This is true both when we look at folks pursuing bachelor’s degrees as well as graduate students with the same degrees. According to an analysis from the Roosevelt Institute, Biden forgiving $50,000 in federal student debt would immediately increase wealth for Black Americans by more than one-third, coming in at 40%.
Black women have an especially high burden when it comes to student debt, in addition to being paid less on average. To get into the specific numbers, Black people with associate’s degrees and bachelor’s degrees earn 14% and 27% lower incomes than white folks with the same degree.
Student loan forgiveness is not giving people an unearned break. It’s not unfair. It’s ethical, reasonable, and frankly, it will benefit everyone because it will benefit the economy. Even if you don’t agree on an ethical level, money talks, and it’s saying one clear thing: Just forgive the debt.
This content was originally published here.