Student loans

Student loan debt relief backed by young people, Harvard poll finds

  • Most young people surveyed in a poll recently released by Harvard University (85%) support government action on student loan debt.
  • More than a third (38%) of 2,024 young Americans polled support full debt cancellation.
  • When asked about mental health, 52% of young people surveyed reported feelings of depression or hopelessness.

Young people want student debt relief, but they may not want it completely eradicated, researchers found in a recent study. Harvard University poll.

In total, 2,024 young people aged 18 to 29 were interviewed; of these, 85% said they supported some form of government action on student debt, but only 38% supported full debt cancellation.

The poll was conducted as part of the Harvard Public Opinion Project to examine what young Americans think about politics, voting and public service. It’s one of two the university holds each year — one in the fall and one in the spring — said John Della Volpe, director of polls at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics.

This is only the second time the organization has asked people if they support the government’s response to student loan debt, said Della Volpe, who served as public opinion advisor during President Joe Biden’s campaign.

Still, there are limits to what the public can read in the result, he said, noting it’s a nuanced subject and one the polls industry hasn’t handled well. complex subjects in the past.

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However, in some focus groups hosted by the Institute, Della Volpe said, young people seem to really care about fairness in finding solutions to student debt.

For example, some focus group participants ask whether someone earning big salaries on Wall Street should have their debts wiped out, or whether aid should only be given to those who need it most.

“What is fair? Della Volpe asked. “Perhaps (a relief for) civil servants of some sort and other types of low-wage workers. Then there are conversations about those who have never attended college due to fears of get into debt.”

The institute’s most recent poll also found that 48% of young Americans think going to college is worth the time and money (18% of those respondents strongly agree with this), 26% disagree and 24% chose a neutral position.

Discussions about the cost of college and debt need to be more focused, said Jorge Burmickyan, assistant professor of educational leadership and policy studies at Howard University.

“Someone who pursues a professional higher education, by the nature of the degree, will have to take on more debt to be able to pursue that degree,” Burmicky said. “Somebody going to medical school or law school, naturally, will have to take out more loans to be able to attend.”

He also said that borrowers who are Latino — of Latin American origin or ancestry — or black are “disproportionately overrepresented when it comes to student loans or student debt in general.”

“People are affected by student loans very differently and some are more likely to pay it back than others, depending on your field, depending on your background,” Burmicky said.

Other Harvard Youth Poll Results

Among the Democrats likely to vote in November:

  • 43% support canceling student loan debt for everyone
  • 29% support canceling student loan debt only for those who need it most
  • 19% prefer not to cancel debt, but help with repayment options
  • 4% are in favor of not changing the current policy

Among Republicans likely to vote in November:

  • 13% support canceling student loan debt for everyone
  • 11% support canceling student loan debt only for those who need it most
  • 39% prefer not to cancel debt, but help with repayment options
  • 36% are in favor of not changing the current policy

Among the independents likely to vote in November:

  • 38% support canceling student loan debt for everyone
  • 18% support canceling student loan debt only for those who need it most
  • 30% prefer not to cancel debt, but help with repayment options
  • 14% are in favor of not changing the current policy

Asked about President Biden specifically, 70% of young Democrats approve of his professional performance, while 33% of independents and 11% of Republicans approve.

Among those who disagree with President Biden’s job performance, 36% noted ineffectiveness, while 14% said he failed to deliver on campaign promises and 10% said Biden disagreed. their values.

More than a third, 36%, of young Americans polled said they would “definitely” vote. This compares to 37% in 2018.

“There is generally a strong correlation between dissatisfaction with Washington and the likelihood of voting,” Della Volpe said. “We need to watch this carefully between now and November as this could change.”

Many young Americans feel “attacked”

The poll also included questions about mental health, finding that more than half (52%) reported feelings of depression or hopelessness; and 24% report thoughts of self-harm.

The results also showed that 59% of young Black Americans, 43% of young Asian Americans and 37% of young Hispanic Americans feel “a lot” “attacked” in America, while nearly half of young LGBTQ people feel “a lot” attacked.

Despite the nation’s divided politics, Della Volpe is “cautiously optimistic” that young Americans can work toward improvements and change.

“This conversation and understanding the depth of the mental health crisis, and in particular some of the effects it is having on our most vulnerable populations, those are two important things for me,” he said. .

Saleen Martin, [email protected]Twitter: @Saleen_Martin