Student Debt Cancellation May Cause Some Disenrolled College Students To Return: Poll
President Biden Delivers Remarks On The Student Debt Relief Portal Beta Test US President Joe Biden speaks as Miguel Cardona, US secretary of education, right, listens in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C., US, on Monday, Oct. 17, 2022. Biden said eight million borrowers applied for the student debt relief program during a beta test to receive up to $20,000 in debt cancellation, and that the official website is up and available for use. Photographer: Bonnie Cash/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images Bloomberg / Contributor
Photographer: Bonnie Cash/UPI/Bloomberg/Contributor via Getty Images

A sizable portion of students who exited their university programs would be likely to return if some or all of their student loans are nixed, according to a poll from Gallup, a finding which comes as a plan from the Biden administration to cancel student debt for millions of individuals is examined by the Supreme Court.

The policy, which would cancel $10,000 in student loans per borrower earning salaries less than $125,000 as well as $20,000 per borrower who received Pell Grants, was enacted via executive order last year. Justices heard arguments in February for two cases against the student loan cancellation policy, one from six Republican attorneys general and another from the Job Creators Network Foundation, and are expected to release a decision next June.

The survey from Gallup and the Lumina Foundation revealed that some 47% of students who “stopped out,” defined as those who are not currently enrolled in degree programs but have some college experience, would be “very likely” to enroll once again if “some or all” of their student loans are canceled. An additional 31% said they were “somewhat likely” to continue their education, while a significantly smaller 22% of students said they were either “not too likely” or “not likely at all” to resume their studies.

Gallup conducted the survey in late October and early November, months after the Biden administration’s student debt plan was unveiled but well before the Supreme Court heard arguments from opponents of the move.

The average federal student loan balance is $38,000, according to data from the Education Department. Students who disenrolled from their degree programs, a phenomenon which accelerated amid the disruptions caused by lockdowns and virtual learning, said on average that 70% of their outstanding loans must be forgiven to justify a return to the classroom.

Nearly two-thirds of individuals who maintain student loan balances were refraining from making payments at the time of the survey due to ongoing pauses for federal student debt repayment, a measure introduced as an emergency pandemic relief measure.

Willingness among disenrolled students to consider resuming their education as a result of student debt cancellation differed in accordance with racial identification: 57% of black respondents were “very likely” to enroll if “some or all” of their loans are nixed, while 49% of Hispanic respondents and 37% of white respondents said the same.

Critics of the student loan policy note that the measure would increase the national debt: the overall cost of the loan cancellation could reach $400 billion, according to an estimate from the Congressional Budget Office. The policy may cause additional distortions in the postsecondary education market as borrowers consider the likelihood of more bailouts, according to an analysis from economists at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, who said that “students might eventually reorganize their financing toward additional borrowing.”


The lawsuits presented before the Supreme Court assert that the policy violates the notice-and-comment processes mandated by the Administrative Procedure Act, which ensures that affected parties can offer comments on federal rules, and contradicts a recent ruling which determined that federal agencies cannot assert “highly consequential power beyond what Congress could reasonably be understood to have granted.” Justices who compose the conservative majority of the Supreme Court expressed skepticism toward the federal student debt cancellation plan and appeared to indicate that the White House should receive approval from Congress before attempting to implement the policy.

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