Florida Governor Ron DeSantis opposes President Joe Biden’s willingness to explore additional student debt forgiveness, saying it would primarily benefit people who have earned higher degrees.
“The student debt that’s out there, almost 60% of it is graduate student debt,” DeSantis said at an April 29 news conference. “Why would you make a truck driver, a waitress, or a construction worker pay debt for someone who did a PhD program in gender studies?”
As a presidential candidate, Biden promised to forgive all undergraduate student debt for those earning up to $125,000. More recent talks have involved providing up to $10,000 in student debt relief to people earning up to $125,000. Because the proposal is still highly debated, it is unclear whether the debt relief would be income-related.
Yet DeSantis’ claim that “nearly 60%” of outstanding student debt comes from graduate school is overstated.
DeSantis publicist Christina Pushaw referenced an article from the Poynter Institute for Media Studies (which owns PolitiFact).
The article focused on how Biden could act to alleviate student debt and quoted the Brookings Institution, which said “56% of outstanding student debt is owed by households with college degrees. superior”.
The main distinction is that the Brookings data focused on indebted households.
Many households have undergraduate debt, even if someone in the household also has a graduate degree. This does not mean that all the debt held has been spent on higher education.
“Assuming that all student loans in a household are college debt if anyone in the household has a graduate degree greatly overestimates the amount of college debt,” said Mark Kantrowitz, a student loan expert, at PolitiFact.
The Congressional Budget Office reviewed the picture of student debt in 2017. Of $1.4 trillion in total debt, the CBO said, about 60% was spent during undergraduate studies. The remaining 40% of outstanding student debt was spent during graduate school.
So DeSantis has it almost exactly upside down.
The majority of federal student loan dollars disbursed in the 2020-21 school year were borrowed by undergraduate students, according to a report by the College Board, a nonprofit educational group.
According to the College Board, 55% of bachelor’s degree graduates graduated with debt, holding an average debt level of more than $25,000. Although the average undergraduate student borrows less money than their graduate counterparts, the pool of people seeking higher education is much smaller.
DeSantis said “nearly 60%” of student loan debt “is graduate school debt.”
He has it upside down. According to a 2017 analysis by the Congressional Budget Office, about 60% of outstanding student debt came from undergraduate studies. On average, graduate students borrow more money than their undergraduate counterparts, but more people pursue undergraduate studies.
DeSantis’ statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. Thus, it is rated mostly false.