While pundits are trying to handicap the outcome of a close presidential election, a recent poll found that one slice of the electorate has a defined view of their dream candidate: 90% of students say that student loan policy will determine who they vote for.
The results were culled from a survey conducted by DirectTextbook.com and also found that 83% of college students and 65% of parents say changes must be made to reduce the student debt burden.
DirectTextbook.com, an online aggregator based in Salem, Ore. for people wishing to buy, sell or rent college textbooks, surveyed 500 students and parents who are registered voters and found that 78% of college students and 92% of parents surveyed said they planned to vote on November 3. According to the Washington, D.C.-based Bipartisan Policy Center, 57.5% of eligible citizens voted in 2012.
Hillary Clinton's campaign embraced a Bernie Sanders-influenced proposal in August to eliminate tuition for in-state students at public universities for families with incomes up to $125,000. Donald Trump has lamented the amount of student debt—widely believed to be about $1.3 trillion—but has also talked about abolishing the U.S. Department of Education, the source of federal student loans and roughly 90% of all student loans.
"Even though it's clear students and parents are looking to our leaders to solve the student debt crisis, overhauling the federal student loan program promises to be a daunting task regardless of who is elected, given the enormous negative impact it could have on the nation's economic health," said DirectTextbook.com spokesperson Brian Morris. "Meanwhile, a program that is supposed to facilitate success continues to financially cripple graduates before they can earn their first dollar."
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 20.5 million students are expected to attend colleges and universities this fall, an increase of about 5.2 million—or 25%--since 2000. For the 2015 academic year, the average annual price for undergraduate tuition, fees, room and board was $16,188 at public institutions and $41,970 at private non-profit institutions.
Respondents to the DirectTextbook.com survey ranked student loans at the top of the list of the most pressing issues of the day. 75% said unemployment was as important as a student debt, with the availability of health care, climate change and gun control coming behind in a three-way tie, where 60% said these were equally important. Morris said, "The survey was conducted among DirectTextbook.com users, both parents and students. We emailed them and requested their participation and used Survey Monkey to collect the results." The survey began the end of May.
DirectTextbook.com surmised that if just 38% of eligible students vote, they would account for a voting bloc of eight million people. Extrapolating from its poll, DirectTextbook.com forecasts that if 71% of the vote is motivated by student debt, 5.7 million votes would be cast by people have student debt reduction as their top-of-mind issue.