We study a national sample of 13,423 consumers who reported high-level information about their past and current loan repayment behavior, their experience with student loan forbearance, and their expectations of future forbearance and student debt cancellation.
We highlight four key findings:
- Three-quarters of borrowers who were making regular payments before the pandemic expected to be able to make their payments in full after blanket pandemic forbearance ends.
- Over half of education loan holders — a share significantly higher than observed in respondents without education debt — reported temporary employment and income disruptions over a one-year period and can benefit from temporary/occasional forbearance and support to remain on track with their payments.
- A significant share of education loan borrowers — over a fifth of borrowers in our data — are chronically struggling and would benefit from more comprehensive solutions than extending a temporary forbearance. Most respondents who did not anticipate being able to make their payments after forbearance ends reported that their payments were unaffordable. Most of these borrowers were making no or partial payments before the pandemic and do not appear to be in a position to change their financial situation even with the support of a continued blanket forbearance.
- Most respondents without education debt preferred no, or relatively limited, cancellation of federal education debt (e.g., $10,000 or less per borrower). In comparison, those with education debt overwhelmingly (86 percent) preferred some debt relief. However, even among this group, there did not appear to be widespread support for canceling most or all education debt. A majority of respondents, with or without education debt, felt that any debt relief provided should be targeted.