Accountability and affordability may be the mantras of countless lawmakers when it comes to college, but today, most people think of another college problem: student loan debt. Some Republicans and Democrats aren’t doing much to stymie the growth of student loan debt, the second largest form of debt in the United States.
While both sides decry student loan debt, which stands around $1.3 trillion, Democrats are making more of an effort at helping graduates manage their runaway debt according to new student debt and congressional data from LendEDU that analyzed student debt data of recent college graduates. It shows that Republican Congressional districts have around 26 percent more student loan defaults than their Democratic counterparts.
The higher default rates among Republican congressional districts come at a time when lawmakers on both sides of the aisle seem to back student debt reform. While both parties support some sort of reform, what they are supporting differs across party lines.
Many Democrats pounded the table on forgiving the outsized debt for certain or all college students; many college students agreed. On that note, some form of student loan forgiveness was supported by close to 75 percent of Democrats, but only eight percent of Republicans supported similar legislation. Student loan forgiveness includes any of the following: total forgiveness, discharge in bankruptcy, or partial and conditional forgiveness.
Federal student loan refinancing programs have the backing of 97 percent of Democrats but only 22 percent of Republicans. Federal refinancing would allow students to get a new interest rate on their student loans during repayment. This normally means getting a lower rate and saving money over the repayment of a loan. Currently, student borrowers receive a fixed rate on their loans which is static throughout loan repayment, but this would change under the new policy affectively allowing students to maintain the lowest interest rates possible.
The Pell Grant program got the backing of 97 percent of Democrats and only 22 percent of Republicans. Pell Grants are free federal financial aid that typically go to low-income students. Support for the Pell Grant program in this context refers to either expanding the program or limiting it. They help defray the cost of a college education. Opposing politicians view the Pell Grant program as an entitlement program and are looking to cut funding to it. Those who support the program view it as essential to improving overall access to education.
One thing the two parties seem to agree more closely on is keeping interest rates on student loans low. 99 percent of Democratic lawmakers supported keeping rates low, and 79 percent of Republicans followed suit. Even on one of the most widely supported college affordability initiatives, Democrats seem to outshine their Republican counterparts. Overall, LendEDU found that Democratic representatives backed such initiatives 1.55 times more than their Republican counterparts.
Back to the case of student loan default, this disparity in support for college affordability initiatives shows itself. LendEDU found that borrowers from Republican districts default on their student loans around 26 percent more often than opposing party districts. The reasons for the default rates are going to vary, but in general, borrowers who defaulted more often were from districts where lawmakers were less supportive of initiatives aimed at improving the financial picture of student loan borrowers.
Take Rep. Austin Scott, the Republican from Georgia, whose District 8 leaves college graduate borrowers with an above average of $48,460 in student debt. He may be conservative and responsible when it comes to taxes, but he is silent on many of the college affordability initiatives. Scott did introduce a bill that would cut taxes on the money an employer kicks in to help with student loans, sticking to his fiscally responsible agenda.
LendEDU reached out to Representative Austin Scott for a comment; no response has been received.
Author: Andrew Rombach
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