Last week, with the help of Vice President Mike Pence’s tie-breaking vote, Betsy DeVos was confirmed as the 11th Secretary of Education.
The Trump Administration narrowly escaped what would have been a disastrous PR event during the “honeymoon” period; in the history of the United States, only nine presidential nominees for cabinet positions have been rejected by the Senate.
Now that DeVos’ confirmation hearing is over, LendEDU wanted to evaluate what student loan borrowers think of their Secretary of Education. Additionally, we wanted to gauge this group’s opinion on President Trump’s student loan plan.
With over $1.4 trillion in total student loan debt, Secretary DeVos assumes her role at a critical juncture, and student loan borrowers are already unsure about her. Similar to his appointee, President Trump has conjured up minimal faith from student debtors. Fortunately for the President and the Education Secretary, the team at LendEDU has polled a few student loan policy initiatives that would help their public opinion amongst borrowers.
Our survey was administered to 500 Americans currently repaying student debt.
Student Debtors are Unsure About Betsy DeVos
We first wanted to gauge how knowledgeable student loan borrowers were on a situation that they have a significant stake in. When asked “Do you know who Betsy DeVos is?,” 93.80% of respondents answered correctly in saying “Secretary of Education.”
While the overwhelming majority of participants know Betsy DeVos’ job title, they are more split when it comes to what the Secretary of Education actually has the power to do. When asked about the amount of power DeVos has to reform student loans, 37% said “unsure,” 34.80% said either “the most power” or “a lot of power,” and 28.20% said either “limited power” or “no power.”
Respondents were then asked, “Do you believe that Betsy DeVos will have an impact on your student loan repayment?” 24.20% answered that she would have either a “positive” or “very positive” impact. 33.80% of participants answered that Secretary DeVos would have “no impact”, while 42% said she would have either a “negative” or “very negative” impact.
While these results show that the majority of student debtors believe DeVos will do more harm than good for their student loan situation, they also demonstrate the opportunity for her to sway debtor confidence. With 33.80% voting “no impact,” Secretary DeVos has a great chance to prove herself to a largely undecided public.
Throughout her confirmation process, DeVos was questioned over the fact that she never used student loans to pay for her education nor the educations of her four children. This fact appears to be a major concern to student loan borrowers. When asked if they thought this would impair DeVos’ ability to effectively handle the student loan debt problem, 66.80% of student debtors said either “definitely” or “probably.”
President Trump Faces Uphill Battle to Win Over Student Debtors
Borrowers are not confident President Trump will have a positive impact on their student loan repayment. Only 25.20% believe he will have either a “positive” or “very positive impact”. On the contrary, 46.80% believe he will have either a “negative” or “very negative” impact. Additionally, 28% of those polled believe he will have “no impact.”
We then wanted to see how respondents think President Trump will do in fixing the student loan debt crisis when compared to his predecessor, Barack Obama. A majority of student debtors believe the 45th President will do a worse job than the 44th. 47.40% of participants believe Trump will do a “worse” or “considerably worse” job, while only 33.80% believe he will do a “better” or “considerably better” job.
In one poll we ran, we asked current student loan borrowers how they think future student debtors will fare under the Trump and DeVos Administration. Unfortunately for future borrowers, the respondents think this group will be worse off than present debtors.
These results are not surprising based on previous questions in this study. However, the Trump Administration still has a great opportunity to convert future debtors into supporters if they can enact successful student loan policies.
LendEDU wanted to see how important of an issue the student loan crisis is when compared to other hot-button topics. Currently, the most talked about issue surrounding the Trump Administration is illegal immigration. We posed the following question: “Should Donald Trump focus more of his time and energy on solving the student loan crisis or tackling illegal immigration?” 62.20% of respondents said that the President should focus his time and energy on solving on the student loan crisis, while only 37.80% said he should focus on illegal immigration.
The fact that such an overwhelming majority believe the student loan crisis is a more important issue than tackling illegal immigration should be noted by President Trump. Americans, more specifically student debtors, want the President to be more focused on an issue that has an indisputable, direct impact on their lives.
Policy Initiatives for the Trump Administration to Consider
Late last week, San Francisco became the first city in the United States to offer free tuition to their local community college. All throughout the election, free tuition was an important topic, especially during the Democratic Primary. During her confirmation, Betsy DeVos called free tuition an “interesting idea,” but she never endorsed it and also said “nothing in life is truly free.” We asked 500 student loan borrowers what they thought about the idea of free tuition. The results were quite lopsided; 66% of respondents said free tuition was either a “great” or “good” idea, while only 18.80% said it was either a “bad” or “terrible” idea. We highly doubt this idea will be considered by the Trump Administration, but it is certain to pick up momentum in the years to follow.
One of the two components of President Trump’s student loan plan includes a repayment plan where monthly payments for federal student loans are limited to 12.50% of the borrower’s income. Despite being tightly contested, this is a initiative that the Trump Administration should follow through on. 32.80% of respondents either “strongly agree” or “agree” with this plan, compared to 29.80% that either “disagree” or “strongly disagree.”
While this Trump initiative currently holds a slight majority in support, we think the President should pay attention to the 37.40% that hold no opinion on this policy. A successful rollout of this plan could swing many of those with no opinion to supporters, giving the Administration an overwhelming majority of support amongst student loan borrowers.
The second component of President Trump’s student loan plan received a significant majority of support when compared to his first initiative. This policy would entail the government forgiving the remaining balance on one’s student loans after 15 years of payment. Unlike the latter, this a policy that received the vast majority of support from our participants. 62.60% of respondents voted that they either “strongly agree” or “agree” with this policy, compared to the 15.80% that either “strongly disagreed” or “disagreed.”
One final initiative that we proposed that received significant support called for the creation of a federal program for refinancing student loans. Although this idea is highly doubtful to be considered by the Trump Administration, the numbers are interesting nonetheless.
With 69.20% of student loan borrowers supporting this idea, it was the most popular policy initiative we included in our poll. More significantly, a mere 4.80% said they either “opposed” or “strongly opposed” this idea. This idea is sure to be an important issue in Presidential elections to come.
Full 17-Question Survey Results
Our survey was conducted in February 2017 using Pollfish. Information was self reported by our respondents. We asked our respondents to answer our questions honestly and to the best of their ability.
1. What is your current student loan balance?
2. Do you know who Betsy DeVos is?
a. Secretary of Agriculture – 2.20%
b. Secretary of Education – 93.80%
c. Secretary of Transportation – 1.20%
d. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development – 2.80%
3. Do you think Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos will make it easier for you to repay your student debt?
a. Strong yes – 3.60%
b. Yes – 7.00%
c. Unsure – 49.80%
d. No – 17.60%
e. Strong no – 22.00%
4. How much power do you think the Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has when it comes to reforming student loans?
a. The most power – 4.60%
b. A lot of power – 30.20%
c. Unsure – 37.00%
d. Limited power – 23.60%
e. No power – 4.60%
5. Betsy DeVos never used student loans to pay for her education or her children’s education. Do you think this impairs her ability to effectively handle the student loan debt problem?
a. Definitely – 33.40%
b. Probably – 33.40%
c. Undecided – 12.80%
d. Probably not – 16.00%
e. Absolutely not – 4.40%
6. Betsy DeVos has called free tuition an “interesting idea”, but she has never endorsed it and also said “nothing in life is truly free.” What do you think of the idea of free tuition in the United States?
a. Great idea – 38.40%
b. Good idea – 27.60%
c. Undecided – 15.20%
d. Bad idea – 12.80%
e. Terrible idea – 6.00%
7. Do you believe that President Donald Trump will have an impact on your student loan repayment?
a. Yes, a very positive impact – 5.00%
b. Yes, a positive impact – 20.20%
c. No impact – 28.00%
d. Yes, a negative impact – 26.80%
e. Yes, a very negative impact – 20.00%
8. Do you believe that Betsy DeVos will have an impact on your student loan repayment?
a. Yes, a very positive impact – 3.80%
b. Yes, a positive impact – 20.40%
c. No impact – 33.80%
d. Yes, a negative impact – 25.60%
e. Yes, a very negative impact – 16.40%
9. Do you think Donald Trump will do a better or worse job than Barack Obama in trying to fix the student loan debt crisis in the United States?
a. Considerably better – 14.00%
b Better – 19.80%
c. No difference – 18.80%
d. Worse – 20.00%
e. Considerably worse – 27.40%
10. Trump’s student loan plan includes a repayment plan where monthly payments for federal student loans are limited to 12.5% of the borrower’s income. Do you agree with this plan?
a. Strongly agree – 5.40%
b. Agree – 27.40%
c. No opinion – 37.40%
d. Disagree – 16.20%
e. Strongly disagree – 13.60%
11. Trump’s student loan plan includes a policy where the government would forgive the remaining balance on your student loans after 15 years of payment. Do you agree with this plan?
a. Strongly agree- 22.40%
b. Agree – 40.20%
c. No opinion – 21.60%
d. Disagree – 10.20%
e. Strongly disagree – 5.60%
12. Would you support a policy that allows for bankruptcy discharge for student loans?
a. Strongly support – 20.80%
b. Support – 25.40%
c. Neutral – 36.00%
d. Oppose – 13.20%
e. Strongly oppose – 4.60%
13. Would you support the creation of a federal program for refinancing student loans?
a. Strongly support – 21.60%
b. Support – 47.60%
c. Neutral – 26.00%
d. Oppose – 3.80%
e. Strongly oppose – 1.00%
14. By the end of the Trump Administration, do you think the national student loan debt will be higher or lower than at the start of his presidency?
a. Way higher – 16.80%
b. Higher – 27.20%
c. Same – 28.60%
d. Lower – 22.40%
e. Way lower – 5.00%
15. Do you think future student debtors will be better or worse off under the Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos administration?
a. Future student debtors will be better off – 27.00%
b. No change – 29.00%
c. Future student debtors will be worse off – 44.00%
16. Should Donald Trump focus more of his time and energy on solving the student loan crisis or tackling illegal immigration?
a.Student loan crisis – 62.20%
b. Tackling illegal immigration – 37.80%
17. Should Donald Trump focus more of his time and energy on solving the student loan crisis or health care reform?
a. Student loan crisis – 28.80%
b. Healthcare reform – 71.20%
Author: Mike Brown
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