(NewsNation) — Most Americans blame colleges and universities for the rising cost of higher education but support investing more public funds in them, according to the latest NewsNation/Decision Desk HQ poll.
Just over half of those surveyed (52%) said colleges and universities bear the most responsiblility for the rising cost of attending school, but others, about one in five people, said the federal government is to blame. Despite that, almost 70% of respondents somewhat or strongly support directing more public funds into higher education institutions.
The poll, released Wednesday, was conducted before President Joe Biden announced his plan to cancel $10,000 in student loan debt for millions of Americans, but provides insight into how that decision is likely to be received by the general public.
Like most topics in America today, student loan forgiveness has become a highly partisan issue, NewsNation polling suggests.
Only 30% of Republicans and 40% of independents said student loan debt is a major problem in the United States, compared to 56% of Democrats who thought the same, according to the survey.
Experts say that split reflects a broader shift in American politics.
“People who are more highly educated are becoming more likely to identify as Democrats and people who have a lower level of educational attainment are becoming more likely to identify as Republicans,” said Decision Desk HQ’s senior data scientist Kiel Williams.
For that reason, those who are more likely to identify as Republican may be less likely to benefit from a large student loan forgiveness program, Williams said.
Today, more than 43 million Americans have federal student debt and almost a third owe less than $10,000, according to the latest federal data.
If all borrowers claim the support they are entitled to, including Pell Grant recipients who are eligible for $20,000 of relief, the Biden administration says that 20 million people could see their remaining balance erased.
Some, including those who qualify under the president’s plan, are concerned it’s not ambitious enough and fails to address the underlying problems with a higher education system that limits who can pursue certain careers.
“It takes a significant amount of privilege to get a master’s degree in a field where you’re not expecting to make a lot of money. You do have to take out student loans,” said Casey McDonagh, 28, a social worker in Chicago who took out $40,000 to get her graduate degree.
McDonagh thinks more support will be needed to address the current shortages in such professions as teaching, nursing and social work.
Despite partisan differences on the topic of student loan forgiveness, the vast majority of those surveyed (73%) believe a college degree is somewhat or very important for finding success in the workforce.
Most Democrats and Republicans also acknowleged that the cost of attending college was a somewhat or very important factor in their family’s education planning, poll results showed.