In 2020, student loan forgiveness was often floated by the Biden Campaign as a big government gimme to those looking for another reason to vote for the Democratic candidate.
“…We should forgive a minimum of $10,000/person of federal student loans, as proposed by Senator (Elizabeth) Warren and colleagues,” proclaimed one tweet from then Candidate Biden.
Now, after much delay and speculation as to whether the President would follow through on his promise, the Biden Administration announced a student loan forgiveness plan and extension of the repayment moratorium at the end of August.
“The Department of Education will provide up to $20,000 in debt cancellation to Pell Grant recipients with loans held by the Department of Education, and up to $10,000 in debt cancellation to non-Pell Grant recipients. Borrowers are eligible for this relief if their individual income is less than $125,000 ($250,000 for married couples),” the White House announced on August 24th.
With the midterm elections just around the corner, this move may very well be an attempt to garner support for the fledgling administration.
As noted by Brookings, the current national student debt hovers around $1.7 trillion spread across 45 million borrowers. This federal student loan forgiveness could therefore impact millions of voters and recent polls suggest the move would be broadly supported.
“In a recent poll from the Center for Responsible Lending, 63 percent of respondents supported permanently reducing student loan debt by $20,000,” Brookings reported.
Brookings also reports the findings of a poll from the Social Policy Institute, which randomly asked 1,009 participants how they would respond if given X student loan forgiveness between $5,000, $10,000, $20,000, and “total forgiveness.”
The results found that the most common responses would be to shift the money to other parts of their balance sheets. “Large proportions of student debt holders reported that they would pay down other debts, save more for emergencies, save for a down payment on a home, or save more for retirement.” The implication being, of course, that respondents’ student loan debts are sapping or even outright preventing them from putting their money towards these goals.
And in the immediate aftermath of the student loan forgiveness plan being announced President Biden saw a jump in approval ratings.
“Biden's job approval, and specifically his job ratings on handling bread-and-butter issues like the economy, inflation, and gas prices, have all risen. His overall job approval number is the highest it's been among registered voters since February,” says CBS. The results of a joint CBS/YOUGOV poll conducted from August 24-26th found that the president’s approval rating reached its highest since February, now at 45% among likely voters.
This year’s midterm election comes at a tenuous time for both the nation and abroad. With everything from the cost of energy, to inflation, and war weighing on the minds of American voters it is unlikely that a single issue such as student loan forgiveness will provide a decisive advantage for Democrats. However, just as the issue is galvanizing conservatives opposed to the measure, it will almost certainly energize voters who may have felt disillusioned by the party’s performance since Joe Biden took office. For Democrats, that alone would be a welcomed boost come November.
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