Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

People attend a rally to urge the Biden administration to cancel all federal student loan debt in Washington, D.C. on April 4, 2022.

People attend a rally to urge the Biden administration to cancel all federal student loan debt in Washington, D.C. on April 4, 2022. (Photo: Stefani Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

More Than Half of US Student Loan Borrowers Say They Can't Afford Single Payment

"Widespread debt cancellation is needed immediately," said one advocate.

Jake Johnson

A survey out Thursday shows that more than half of student loan borrowers in the United States say they would not currently be able to make a single monthly debt payment if they were required to, a finding that comes amid mounting calls for universal student debt cancellation.

The new poll, conducted this month by the firm Payitoff, also finds that 64% of U.S. student loan borrowers say they "would not make a payment until they are legally required to do so." The average monthly student loan payment in the U.S. is $460, according to the Education Data Initiative.

The survey results were released weeks after the Biden administration announced its fourth extension of the federal student loan repayment moratorium, a freeze that has been in place since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.

While advocates and progressive lawmakers welcomed the extension—which will remain in effect through August 31—they argued that continuing to push the end of the moratorium back several months at a time leaves tens of millions of borrowers in limbo and does nothing to ensure lasting relief.

"Pausing a crisis doesn't end it," the Debt Collective said earlier this month.

President Joe Biden has thus far dismissed calls to pursue sweeping student loan forgiveness via executive action, and his administration has yet to release a memo outlining whether he has the authority to do so. Legal experts and Democratic members of Congress have argued that Biden can cancel student debt unilaterally "with the stroke of a pen."

During a briefing earlier this month, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that Biden "has not ruled out" broad-based student debt cancellation.

"I would note that, again, he would encourage Congress to send him a bill canceling $10,000 in student debt, something that he talked about looking forward to signing on the campaign trail," Psaki added.

On Wednesday, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report showing that the U.S. Department of Education "hasn't done enough to ensure that all eligible borrowers receive the forgiveness to which they are entitled" under income-driven repayment (IDR) plans, which are supposed to offer relief for low-income borrowers.

"We found thousands of borrowers still in repayment who could be eligible for forgiveness now," the GAO said.

The GAO report was published shortly after the Education Department (ED) announced it would be taking several steps to remedy "historical failures" in IDR plans and other federal student loan programs. The department said its policy changes "will result in immediate debt cancellation for at least 40,000 borrowers."

Persis Yu, policy director and managing counsel at the Student Borrower Protection Center, said in a statement that while the department's actions represent "a good first step," they don't "go far enough."

"Today's [GAO] report shows that problems with ED's data are so severe that as few as 4% of borrowers who manage to navigate IDR's complicated requirements have actually received the relief they are entitled to," Yu noted. "It defies logic to believe that such abusive practices are limited to one program. The problems identified suggest a much deeper systemic problem within the student loan system."

"We cannot rely on individual programmatic fixes to fix systemic problems," Yu added. "Widespread debt cancellation is needed immediately."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

EPA Urged to 'Finish the Job' After Latest Move to Protect Bristol Bay From Pebble Mine

"Local residents, scientists, and the broader public all agree that this is quite simply a bad place for a mine, and it is past time for the EPA to take Pebble off the table permanently," said one activist in Alaska.

Jessica Corbett ·


'Zero Tolerance for Corruption': Grijalva, Porter Demand Answers on Alleged Trump Pardon Bribery Scheme

The Democrats believe a real estate developer donated to a Trump-aligned super PAC in exchange for the pardons of two other men.

Julia Conley ·


Millions of Americans Lack Adequate Health Coverage, But the Pentagon Has a New Nuclear Bomber to Flaunt

"This ominous death machine, with its price tag of $750 million a pop, brings huge profits to Northrop Grumman but takes our society one more step down the road of spiritual death," peace activist Medea Benjamin said of the new B-21 Raider.

Brett Wilkins ·


Betrayal of Railway Workers Ignites Working-Class Fury Toward Biden and Democrats

"Politicians are happy to voice platitudes and heap praise upon us for our heroism throughout the pandemic," said one rail leader. "Yet when the steel hits the rail, they back the powerful and wealthy Class 1 rail carriers every time."

Jessica Corbett ·


With GOP House Control Looming, Pascrell Calls for Swift Release of Trump Tax Records

"Donald Trump tried to hide his tax returns from our oversight but after 1,329 days we have finally obtained the documents," said the New Jersey Democrat. "We should review and release them."

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo