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Published: May 12, 2022 4 min read
Collage of Joe Biden on a podium with fading hundred dollar bills and students during a graduation ceremony
Money; Getty Images

Will President Joe Biden forgive student loans? Nobody outside the White House knows for certain, but just over half of Americans think it's a legit possibility — and one that'll wipe out a significant amount of debt for the nation's borrowers.

In a new survey from Money and decision intelligence company Morning Consult, 51% of respondents said they believed it was likely the Biden administration would cancel up to $10,000 in student debt per borrower.

Others expressed doubt, with 27% of respondents saying Biden probably or definitely wouldn't forgive up to $10,000 per borrower. The remaining 23% said they didn't know or had no opinion on the likelihood of student loan forgiveness. (The numbers don't exactly add up to 100% due to rounding.)

The results come after months of speculation about whether Biden will use his executive powers to cancel at least some student loan debt.

During his 2020 presidential campaign, Biden said the government should forgive a minimum of $10,000 per person, arguing that "young people and other student debt holders bore the brunt of the last crisis" and "it shouldn't happen again." But since taking office, Biden has been reluctant to use his authority to enact broad-based loan forgiveness. Citing concerns about an executive order possibly being later overturned and potential legal challenges, the White House has repeatedly said the president would rather see Congress pass a bill canceling student debt than do it on his own.

In the meantime, payments for most federal student loans are paused through Aug. 31.

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Who anticipates student loan forgiveness?

The idea of student loan forgiveness is a popular one. Among 2,210 U.S. adults contacted in early May, 54% said they strongly supported or somewhat supported Biden forgiving up to $10,000 in student debt per person. That share slid to 51% when the proposed forgiveness maxed out at $20,000 and 47% when it reached $50,000.

But there's a difference in liking the concept of student loan forgiveness and thinking it'll actually happen. These poll results tease out that difference.

Self-identified Democrats were among the respondents most confident that Biden will take action on student loans, with 65% saying they think he probably or definitely will wipe out up to $10,000 per borrower. Comparatively, 42% of Republicans said the same.

Respondents between ages 18 and 34 were more likely than older ones to say Biden will cancel as much as $10,000 in loans, as were those who voted for him in 2020. Notably, 59% of people who currently have debt said they thought Biden will forgive loans up to that amount. Black respondents were particularly optimistic, with 64% believing Biden will cancel $10,000 a person compared to 50% of Hispanic adults and 48% of white adults.

A significantly smaller number of people said they believed that Biden would erase more than $10,000 in student loans per person.

Overall, just 38% of respondents said they thought Biden would forgive up to $20,000 per borrower. Only 26% believed he'd cancel as much as $50,000.

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