A new report gauging federal lawmakers’ stance on student debt-related issues shows where both parties gel — like on low student-loan interest rates — and where they split, such as on Pell Grant funding.
The study by LendEDU, an online tool that helps consumers compare student loans and refinancing options, also includes average student debt per borrower, proportion of college graduates with student debt, total college enrollment and student loan default rates according to congressional districts. It also provides where senators and representatives stand on key student debt-related efforts.
In addition, the report includes two interactive maps that highlight student debt statistics by congressional district and state.
The study didn’t include information about community college students — it focused only on public four-year institutions — but LendEDU says the information still can educate constituents in areas served by public two-year colleges, which share similar issues with public four-year schools.
“While the student debt data may not be relevant, the local level support for college affordability legislation is relevant,” said LendEDU co-founder and CEO Nate Matherson, who graduated from the University of Delaware with $55,000 in student loan debt. “Community college students could still use our report to see the college affordability track record of their representatives and senators.”
LendEDU examined six, college debt-related initiatives, and where Congress stood on them (and along party lines, too). Two of them pertained to college affordability: low student-loan interest rates and Pell funding. On these two points, Republicans and Democrats generally agreed on keeping low interest rates in some way. When it came to Pell funding, most Democrats supported the program as “indispensable access to higher education to low-income individuals,” while many Republicans view it as “costly and want to reduce funding,” according to the study.
Federal refinancing is a Democratic initiative that would reduce federal student loan borrowers’ interest rates to current lower rates. It also prompts more government involvement in student loans, the report said. Republicans generally would prefer to rely on the private market for refinancing. Forgiveness is another mostly Democratic initiative that many Republicans oppose for the general tax increases that would come along with it, the report said.
The final two initiatives — improving financial literacy and providing tax benefits — have support from both party lines, and many Republicans prefer these initiatives over refinancing and forgiveness, according to the report.
Other key observations from the report:
- Borrowers from Republican states default on their student loans about 55 percent more often than those from Democratic states.
- Borrowers from Democratic states have 25 percent more student loan debt than borrowers from Republican states.