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Poll Shows North Carolinians Stressed and Struggling with Student Debt During the Pandemic Economy

Thursday, December 3, 2020
Rochelle Sparko

Durham, NC — Over half (55%) of surveyed North Carolinians with student debt who earn less than $50,000 in annual income report a decrease in their household income since the onset of COVID-19, according to a Morning Consult survey commissioned by the Center for Responsible Lending.

Despite a pause in payments for many student loan borrowers as provided in the relief CARES Act, nearly three quarters (73%) report stress associated with their student debt. More than two-thirds (69%) report they would have trouble with unexpected financial emergencies or are falling behind in their finances.

“Student debt tripled in North Carolina between 2008 and 2018, growing to a $44 billion weight on our economy and our hardworking families, who struggle with this debt load long after leaving college,” said Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) Director of North Carolina Policy Rochelle Sparko. “The national crisis is real, we’re feeling it acutely right here at home, and it can’t be separated from the profound economic crisis caused by COVID-19. North Carolina families, especially those with lower incomes, are stressed out and struggling, and putting off financial moves such as buying homes and cars. Relieving this stress would not only benefit these families, but the businesses that depend on the buying power of our residents.”

Respondents to the August/September survey also reported:

  • Significant lack of awareness of the current pause in student loan payments;
  • Problems with student loan servicers, including practices that have resulted in lower credit scores and failure of servicers to tell them about income-driven repayment options;
  • Over half have trouble making payments, and significant numbers are unable to save for retirement or make major purchases;
  • Broad support for policy solutions that would protect and relieve borrowers and reform practices that make loan burdens worse, including strong bipartisan support for reducing student debt by $20,000 for all borrowers..

The poll results will be discussed during a December 4 convening of the North Carolina Coalition for Responsible Lending. Register here:


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