Home Career Should the federal government forgive student loans? See what Utah thinks

Should the federal government forgive student loans? See what Utah thinks


Forgiveness of federal student loans, even partial ones, seems to be a very unpopular idea in Utah, according to a recent Dan Jones & Associates poll conducted for Deseret News and the Hinckley Policy Institute.

A poll of 808 Utah-registered voters showed low support rates for federal loan forgiveness for all borrowers and only slightly higher support – 14% – for partial loan forgiveness. Partial pardon loans for low-income borrowers had the highest level of support, but even then it was only 17% overall and as high as 25% among respondents with higher education.

Only 11% of respondents said all federal student loans for all borrowers should be forgiven.

46 percent of those who responded to the survey said the federal government should not cancel student loans. The poll has an error of 3.46 percentage points.

In some ways, the survey results were not surprising given Utah’s history of low debt per borrower nationwide and low default.

But for borrowers like Anna Merrill, the poll results were disappointing, especially given that the news speculated that President Joe Biden was close to announcing some level of debt relief. perhaps $ 10,000 per borrower.

Meryl, who graduated from the University of Utah in 2021, works in the education administration. She has about $ 30,000 in student debt.

“I’ve talked to a lot of people who are either in school now or recently for the last five years, and as far as I understand, everyone is saying, ‘This would make such a big difference in my life.’ They have no idea how much this would mean to me if I received even a partial apology. I could have done both, ”she said.

Scholarships helped pay for Meryl’s education for the first two semesters in the U. The remaining years of college she worked part-time, and the remaining loans covered student loans.

Meryl said her “willingly” did not hope to forgive the student loan. While payments on the federal student loan have been suspended since March 2020 and are expected to remain so until the end of August, Merrill said lifting measures if housing, fuel, food and medical expenses are so high will force some borrowers make difficult decisions.


Anna Meryl, a recent college graduate, poses for a portrait at Fits Park in Salt Lake City on Monday, May 30, 2022.

Menshin Lin, Deseret News

Meryl is mostly worried about future generations who are not eligible for financial aid and do not have enough personal funds to pay for college.

“My heart breaks when children and high school students have high hopes, and then there is an economic barrier … that prevents them from going to school,” she said.

Lauren Santistevan, who graduated from the University of Northern Arizona in 2013, was recruited to work at Montage Deer Valley after earning a business degree. She has since made regular payments on student loans, but still owes about $ 30,000.

“I agree 100% with the loan forgiveness,” she said. “If you are of a certain age, have a diploma, a job and contribute to society, and you pay your taxes on time, these loans are so large that the average young person may also need to be included in their finances.”

Even a partial apology would be a big help if she tries to save on a home during record housing prices, high fuel costs and other inflationary pressures, she said.

“How do I ever have to buy a house with the way it is? It’s so scary and hopeful for a young man trying to buy, right? ” she said.

Eli Cook, producer of KSL Radio, is repaying his loans after graduating from Utah State University in 2020. She has not received scholarships or grants and owes about $ 30,000 on federal student loans.

Although she and other borrowers received a deferral of payment under orders regarding COVID-19 relief, Cook said she did not expect to repay the loan in addition to her other obligations such as her phone, insurance and medical bills. Cook lives with her mother, which has helped her save money, but her goal of owning her own home seems far-fetched given inflation, rising fuel and food prices and her other commitments.

Cook said the poll results were “amazing and even disappointing. I understand where many people come from when they had difficulty paying off loans and stuff. But at the same time the last few years it has been such madness. Obviously, the pandemic has really hit us, and now inflation has hit. … Personally, I don’t think that all loans should be relieved, but at least everyone has some relief. “

Utah Commissioner for Higher Education David Wulstenholm said he was not surprised by the results of the poll, because many Americans believe that debt is a personal responsibility.

The Utah Higher Education Council has not talked about forgiving student loans, much less taking a stand, he said.

Rather, the council and he as commissioner aim to make higher education more accessible. Earlier this year, the Board of Education approved the sale of a portfolio of loans from the Federal Family Education Program, which is managed by the Utah Office of Higher Education Assistance.

Proceeds from the sale will go to fund a fund valued at about $ 300 million, which will help fund scholarships in the future to reduce college tuition costs.

The system is also working to keep tuition fees at public colleges and universities relatively low. Compared to similar institutions outside the state, costs in Utah are usually lower.

“I think we’ve done a very good job, but it always requires constant attention,” Wulstenholm said.

Even with this effort, “we still have students who can’t access it. For many it is still too high. So what are we doing to help these students get scholarships and provide financial support that they can access?

“That’s where we’re really focused, and that’s where we spend our energy, not so much on student loans that we already have to forgive them, but on how to keep students from getting into debt with student loans in the future? ” he said.

In a relevant question poll asked Utah how much it would cost to get a college diploma that experts say, increases earning potential, marketability and personal growth. Health outcomes are also related to education level.

When asked how important college education is, 85% of Utah residents said it was important and 14% didn’t. One percent said they did not know.

Wulstenholm, who oversees eight technical colleges and eight colleges and universities in Utah’s higher education system, said the survey was also not surprising.

But “college” doesn’t necessarily mean a bachelor’s degree.

Wulstenholm said educators, school counselors and families need to better direct students to institutions and programs.

“We need to talk better with our students in advance. ‘What do you really want to do?’ What we’ll learn when we start having these honest conversations is there are a lot of students who need to study at a technical college because it’s their career aspirations, not because they’re not smart enough to go to the University of Utah, but because that they want to be an electrician, or they want to work in heating, air conditioning, or they want to be a car mechanic or a diesel mechanic, a welder or something else, ”he said.

“Too many times we’ve just kind of force-fed students to our educational institutions where they don’t have time. That’s why I think the speed of completion is what I think we didn’t always set students up for. “

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