LendEDU looked to gauge where the preferences of the American public lay by pitting these two issues against each other. We asked 1,000 adult, voting-eligible Americans if they would prefer complete student loan forgiveness or free health care for all.
Respondents were then asked if they would rather their hypothetical future children or current children have access to free four-year college or free health care.
Full survey results
The following two questions were asked to 1,000 adult Americans with some amount of student loan debt. The survey was conducted online through research firm Pollfish.
(1) Would you rather have the United States’ $1.61 trillion in outstanding student loan debt be completely forgiven or have a free health care for all policy be implemented in the U.S.?
- 40% of respondents answered “Outstanding student loan debt be completely forgiven.”
- 60% of respondents answered “Free health care for all policy be implemented in the U.S.”
(2) For your hypothetical future (or current) children, would you rather them have access to free four-year college or free health care?
- 42% of respondents answered “Free four-year college.”
- 58% of respondents answered “Free health care.”
Observations and analysis
Although it was a close call, free health care for all preferred over complete student loan forgiveness
Despite poll participants owing some amount of student loan debt, 60% still indicated they would rather see a free universal health care policy be enacted instead of full student loan debt forgiveness, which was chosen by 40%.
While the complete cancellation of this nation’s $1.61 trillion in outstanding student loan debt would presumably cost somewhere around that figure, the estimated price of free universal health care would likely fall somewhere between $25 trillion and $36 trillion over 10 years according to various plans from think-tanks and economists.
Perhaps, like most things, the answer lies in the pockets of Americans. While recent student loan borrowers owe $28,565 in student loan debt, the costs of health care over a lifetime will usually far exceed that.
For example, the average cost of health insurance was $18,764 for the average family in 2017, with $5,714 of that being out-of-pocket expenses.
All things considered, 40% of respondents opting for complete forgiveness was a strong representation of the great burden that student loan debt places on people.
And, the results actually tightened with the next question.
Free four-year college proves stiffer competition for free health care
When respondents were asked if they would rather see free four-year college or free health care for their hypothetical future children or current children, 42% opted for the former while 58% selected the latter.
While the likely price tag of free universal health care would be between $25 trillion and $36 trillion over 10 years, Senator Bernie Sanders put forth a college for all plan that he said would cost about $70 billion per year.
However, that plan only accounts for tuition at public institutions and not the more expensive private colleges and universities. While $70 billion per year is a significant cost regardless, it is reasonable to assume a free college plan that also included private institutions would cost well north of $100 billion each year.
In terms of why slightly more respondents opted for free college instead of complete student loan debt forgiveness when both were pitted against free universal health care, the answer once again is placed in the pockets.
Average annual tuition rates at four-year colleges range from $25,290 to $50,900 depending on the school being public or private and if the student is in-state or out-of-state.
All data found within this report derives from an online survey commissioned by LendEDU and conducted by research firm Pollfish. In total, 1,000 adult Americans ages 18 and up with student loan debt were polled.
Respondents were only allowed to proceed to the survey if they were 18 or older, from the United States, and had some amount of student loan debt. The first two criterion were found through Pollfish’s filtering features that allowed us to filter on both age and location. The last criterion was found through a screener question that respondents had to answer correctly to proceed.
This poll was conducted on Jan. 10, 2020. Respondents were asked to answer each question truthfully and to the best of their abilities.
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