It makes sense on paper: A president that is woefully unpopular among young voters is reportedly considering a policy that is wildly popular among that cohort to give young voters a reason to show up in a midterm in which their support is desperately needed.
According to Bloomberg, President Joe Biden is considering forgiving $10,000 in student-loan debt per borrower (with eligibility capped at $125,000 to $150,000 in annual income). The move would be a way to reach voters under 30 who have grown disillusioned by an administration limited by inflationary worries and uncooperative Democratic senators from West Virginia and Arizona. The Biden administration could extend the moratorium on student-loan payments, which expires at the end of August, as a smaller measure to appeal to young voters. One Democrat close to the White House told Bloomberg that Biden has come close to making a decision on forgiving student-loan debt at least three times in the last few months, but worries over inflation have caused him to stall, and no decision has been made yet.
According to a recent Morning Consult poll, just 41 percent of voters ages 18 to 34 approve of Biden’s performance as president; that number is down 20 points since his inauguration and represents the largest shift of any age group. Many young voters, who largely preferred other candidates in the 2020 primary, have become frustrated with the gap between Biden’s campaign promises (codifying Roe, increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, universal pre-K, passing serious climate policy, banning assault weapons) and achievements in office (limited gun reform, nominating a Black woman to the Supreme Court, and passing the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill and $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan).
Total student-debt amnesty for people earning less than $125,000 annually was on Biden’s campaign wish list. And while that option is now off the table, polls suggest that a majority of Americans approve of $10,000 in student-loan debt forgiveness. That amount would not wipe student-loan debt off the map: The average borrower has around $37,000 in student loans; total outstanding student-loan debt nationwide, including private loans, comes out to a staggering $1.75 trillion. But taking a dent out of the problem ahead of a challenging midterm map could help boost the party ballot by limiting the usual midterm falloff of young voters who overwhelmingly skew Democratic. First, though, Biden would have to stop wavering on the matter.