The outcome of the 2016 presidential election could hinge, at least in part, on where the candidates stand on the issue of student debt. In fact, a new survey conducted by found that 83% of college students and 65% of parents say changes must be made to reduce the student debt burden – and many say the issue of student debt plays an important role in candidate selection.

90% percent of students say student debt will influence their votes polled nearly 500 college students and parents of students and discovered:
  • 78% of college students and 92% of parents plan to vote in the 2016 presidential election
  • 90% of students and 84% of parents say candidates’ position on student debt is important when deciding who they’ll vote for

Income-based repayment tops student debt reduction strategies
The poll asked students and parents to choose which strategies they favor for reducing the burden of student debt. Income-based repayment topped the list among both students and parents, while more students than parents favored increased government-sponsored financial aid and complete student loan forgiveness. Here are the results:

Strategy Students Parents
Income-based repayment 70% 51%
Increased government aid 68% 38%
Student loan forgiveness 45% 22%
Total individual accountability 18% 27%
No changes should be made 5% 22%

Critical issues: Student debt VS unemployment, health care and gun control
Many respondents ranked student debt as being more important than or equally important as other major issues, including unemployment, health care and gun control.

Issue % of students who say student debt is more/just as important % of parents who say student debt is more/just as important
Unemployment 75% 58%
Health care 54% 43%
Gun control 60% 60%
Climate change 60% 68%
Immigration 66% 60%

Voters want leadership to solve the student debt crisis
The results are clear: both students and parents are looking to elected leadership to solve the student debt crisis, which might be quantified by the following figures:

Will the issue of student debt decide the election?
How big an impact will the issue of student debt have on Election Day? Time will tell, but consider that the collective student body numbers 21 million. If just 38% of students vote (as they did in the 2012 presidential election), that’s a voting contingent of eight million people. If 71% of those base their vote on the issue of student debt – as the poll indicates – then 5.7 million votes will be cast in favor of reducing the student debt burden. Add in the parent vote, and that number is even bigger.

Are 7.2 million votes enough to swing an election? How that pans out in the Electoral College remains to be seen, but it’s worth noting President Obama won the 2012 popular vote over Mitt Romney by a margin of just 4.9 million.

Either way, a plan to reduce or eliminate student debt should be a cornerstone of any presidential platform. If you don’t want to wait for the government to solve the student debt crisis, you can eliminate your own student debt with this free guide.


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