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New Bipartisan Poll Shows Strong Support for Student Loan Debt Cancellation During COVID-19 Pandemic

Tuesday, May 12, 2020
Julia Barnard

“A majority of Americans across all regions of the U.S. support permanently reducing student loan debt by $20,000 for all borrowers.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) and Americans for Financial Reform (AFR) released a bipartisan poll today showing that Americans around the country and across partisan identities strongly support student debt reduction during the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, the poll indicates that a majority of voters support at least $20,000 in student debt reduction.

Lake Research Partners and Chesapeake Beach Consulting designed this nationwide survey, which was administered by Engine Insight’s CARAVAN omnibus.

"This bipartisan poll makes clear that amid the COVID-19 public health and economic crisis, Americans want relief for student loan borrowers. Student debt poses significant risks to this country’s economic security,” said CRL Researcher Julia Barnard. “Broad universal debt cancellation of at least $20,000 will relieve the loan burden of most borrowers who are currently in default and help the household budgets of millions of others. Debt cancellation would enable student loan borrowers to emerge from this crisis ready to fully participate in the new economy – whether purchasing homes, starting small businesses, or simply being better positioned to spend money in their community when businesses across the country fully reopen.”

“This poll shows that people intuitively understand that cancelling debt would be a powerful way to immediately relieve pressure on distressed borrowers during this economic crisis,” said AFR Senior Policy Analyst Alexis Goldstein. “People understand that less money going to federal student loan payments means more funds for food, medicine, and basic household needs, and that cancellation would give them a much-needed leg-up in digging out of this enduring economic crisis.”

Poll Key Highlights

  • Over six in ten Americans (63%) support permanently reducing student loan debt by $20,000 during the coronavirus crisis, including 42% who do so strongly. Over six in ten support the policy in all regions of the US. Support is strongest in the Northeast (71%).
  • While Democrats are most enthusiastic about the policy (78% support; 55% strong support), independents (59% support) and Republicans (49% support) are also net favorable. Among independents, support outweighs opposition three to one.
  • Support also holds steady across party, increasing by five points among independents (64%).

Background

H.R. 748, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), signed into law on March 27, 2020, provided for a 6-month suspension and interest waiver on federally-owned student loans. It also halted all involuntary collections on these loans. These provisions only apply to Department of Education-held loans, excluding 1.9 million Perkins Loan borrowers, 5.98 million commercially held FFEL borrowers, 1.22 million guaranty agency held FFEL borrowers, and all private student loan borrowers.

Student debt exacerbates existing systemic inequities and racial disparities, preventing recovery from extending to already marginalized groups who are still reeling from the effects of the Great Recession. The CARES Act falls far short of providing full relief for hard-working families across the country, especially for veterans, older adults, and low- and moderate-income families, and communities of color who are getting hit hard by this pandemic and were already struggling most with student debt.

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Press Contact: Ricardo Quinto - ricardo.quinto@responsiblelending.org (CRL) and Carter Dougherty - carter@ourfinancialsecurity.org (AFR)