On August 24, 2022, President Joe Biden announced a plan to forgive $10,000 in student loan debt for low- and middle-income Americans, and an additional $10,000 in debt forgiveness for students who received federal Pell Grants. Data from PRRI’s October 2021 American Values Survey shows that people of color and young people are particularly concerned about affording their student loan payments.
Around one in five Americans (20%) say they are concerned about their ability to pay their student loan payments, including more than one in ten (12%) who are very concerned about affording their loan payments.
Concerns about student loan debt are particularly high among people of color: one-third of Black Americans (32%) are at least somewhat concerned about affording student loan payments, including around one in four (23%) who are very concerned. Three in ten Hispanic Americans (30%) and one in four Americans of other races (24%) are at least somewhat concerned about being able to afford to pay their loans. In comparison, 15% of white Americans say they are at least somewhat concerned about affording their student loans.
Americans with household incomes below $150,000 per year (22%) are more likely than those with incomes above $150,000 (14%) to be concerned about student loan debt. However, among the group of Americans with incomes below $150,000 per year, there are some racial disparities: 35% of Black Americans and 31% of Hispanic Americans in this group are concerned about paying their loan bills, compared to about half as many white Americans in households earning less than $150,000 per year (15%).
Financial stress about affording student loan payments scales with age: 29% of Americans ages 18 to 29, compared to 24% of those ages 30 to 49, 16% of those ages 50 to 64, and 10% of those over age 65, are at least somewhat concerned about affording their student loan bills.
Finally, there appears to be some evidence that student loans are a larger concern among Americans who did not finish a four-year degree program or who earned a two-year college degree. More than two in ten Americans with some college experience but no four-year degree are concerned about their loan bills (22%), compared to slightly fewer Americans with a four-year degree (17%). Those with post-graduate degrees (19%) or a high school degree or less formal education (20%) are just as likely as all Americans to have concerns about paying their loan debt.