Few Support Biden’s Student Loan Efforts, Even Those With Student Loan Debt: Survey

By: Alex Trent | Published: Jun 12, 2024

President Joe Biden seems to view his efforts to address the student loan crisis in America as one of his defining and successful issues given how he often brings it up.

However, a new survey from the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that more Americans disapprove of how Biden has handled the issue, and disapproval numbers are high even among those who have debt themselves.

Student Loan Survey

The AP-NORC survey found that less than a third of respondents approve of how Joe Biden has handled the issue of student loan debt.

A student rubs his hair as he stares at his laptop with an upset expression.

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Four out of ten Americans in the survey reported strongly or somewhat disapproving of Biden’s efforts. The survey was conducted among 1,309 US adults with a margin for error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.


Those With Debt

People with student loan debt, ones who might be more likely to support Biden’s forgiveness plans, were split on the issue. 36% said they strongly or somewhat approved of Biden’s efforts while 34% said they strongly or somewhat disapproved.

A student in class with two books open in front of them.

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Recent estimates put the student loan debt in America at over $1.7 trillion.

Loan Struggles

The Council on Foreign Relations estimated in April that nearly one in five Americans is currently responsible for student loan debt.

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Their reporting calculated that student loan debt in America has doubled over the past two decades, exceeding debt from both car loans and credit cards.

Biden’s Efforts

During the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden committed to taking the issue of student loan debt seriously, making ambitious promises of what was possible to do before he assumed office.

President Joe Biden speaking at a podium in the White House, gesturing with his hand.

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“I propose to forgive all undergraduate tuition-related federal student debt from two- and four-year public colleges and universities for debt-holders earning up to $125,000, with appropriate phase-outs to avoid a cliff,” wrote Biden in a Medium post at the time.

Debt Relief

President Biden has tried various measures to address struggling students who are unable to pay back their loans. Biden extended the pause of student loan repayments after the pandemic, though last year that pause ended.

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The administration has also been approving waves of debt relief for select categories of borrowers. In May, Biden approved $7.7 billion in relief that would affect 160,000 borrowers.


Trouble in the Courts

Biden has not had free reign in his ability to make plans to address struggling loan borrowers. A plan to enact a widespread form of debt cancellation was stopped by the Supreme Court last year, forcing him to move forward with narrower, more targeted plans.

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According to the Associated Press, Biden has so far erased student debt for about 4 million people under his watch through already existing programs.


Why Are People Unhappy With Biden’s Job?

Given that Biden has seen some success with student loan debt, one may wonder why so many people disapprove of his efforts. Some see Biden’s big promises failing as disappointing, feeling they aren’t getting what they voted for while others disagree with the premise of forgiving loan debt entirely.

Joe Biden holds a microphone while speaking.

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“He suggested something that sounded good to a lot of individuals in this country, but there was no way for it to move forward from the onset,” said Asher Marshall a student loan holder who was initially rooting for Biden’s promises. Marshall is an independent who has signaled an intent to vote for Biden.


Feeling Let Down

Melissa Mata, a resident of Houston and a holder of $14,000 in student loan debt, feels like the trust is broken after she couldn’t get the help Biden promised still years after he was elected.

A closeup shot at Joe Biden’s hands as he holds a pen.

Source: The White House/Wikimedia

“They make these promises to get votes, but they don’t deliver. So I think for me, I wouldn’t trust it,” said Mata.


Not Blaming Biden

Some supporters are not blaming Biden, but instead the Supreme Court for stopping his more ambitious loan forgiveness plans.

A view of the front entrance to the Supreme Court building surrounded by fence.

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“It was the Supreme Court that shut him down,” said Samantha Kempf a social worker from Michigan with $78,000 in federal loan debt. “I don’t blame him for it, because he at least made an attempt to get something approved.”


Opinion of Younger Adults

If young adults, a traditionally reliable base for Democrats like Biden, start to turn sour on the party’s efforts to deliver on student loan promises it may spell trouble ahead of the general election this November.

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Around half of younger US adults feel like there needs to be a priority for government action on student debt, viewing it as extremely or very important.


Paying for Someone Else

Republicans and those who disagree with loan forgiveness policies are increasingly becoming fed up with government action that they see as stealing from one person to pay for someone else’s mistakes.

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“We give too much away. You give everything away, nobody appreciates what they have,” said Republican Neil Wolf, who has already repaid student loans for two separate degrees. “Why should I pay for somebody else’s loans?”