President Joe Biden recently signed into law a plan to reduce federal student loan debt across America. The policy, which analysts at the Wharton School of Business in Pennsylvania say could cost up to $300 billion, is fulfilling a campaign promise made by Biden.

Biden’s move was hailed by his supporters for easing the financial burden of many student debt holders.

However, its critics called the policy unfair, arguing that the cost would fall on the shoulders of those with no student debt.

Crenshaw Biden Jordan
Republican Congressmen Dan Crenshaw (L) and Jim Jordan (R) have publicly criticized President Joe Biden’s debt-forgiveness policies, claiming that most Americans don’t have college debt but still have to pay it. It is estimated that the directive could cost up to $300 billion.
left and center) Alex Wong, (right Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

The claim

Congressmen Jim Jordan (R-OH), Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) and Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee tweeted on Aug. 24, 2022 that the 87 percent of Americans who don’t have student loan debt must help fund the Debt Relief Policy.

The facts

Biden’s plan reinstates an existing moratorium on student loan payments until the end of the year and entitles borrowers earning less than $125,000 a year to student loan forgiveness of between $10,000 and $20,000.

news week has reached out to the White House for comment.

The argument Republicans are making here is that all taxpaying American adults must pay for the debt-forgiveness policy – wrongly, in their view – even if the vast majority of them have either paid off their college loans or had none to start with .

To calculate that 87 percent estimate, they appear to have taken the number of Americans with federal student debt (estimated at around 45 million according to the White House) and divided that number by the total U.S. population (around 331.5 million according to the year 2020 US census).

This suggests that around 13 percent of federal student debt is outstanding, so 87 percent is not.

However, data from the US Census Bureau shows that the total population includes children under the age of 18 who (by choice) neither have college debt nor would be directly taxed.

If we exclude children, the population over 18 is about 258 million, bringing the percentage down to 83 percent. Further calculations could further reduce this number if, for example, we also excluded otherwise tax-exempt Americans.

Crenshaw and the Ways and Means Committee specifically refer to “87% of American adults” in their tweets.

While Jordan only speaks of “87% of Americans” (which is only technically correct), his rep sent news week a Ways and Means press release on the subject, which also referred to “87 percent of American adults.”

The spokesman also provided figures from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York that were consistent with the calculation above, stating, “Their most recent figure shows that the total number of borrowers in the fourth quarter of 2021 is 43.4 million, based on the total population of the US in 2021 331 million.”

Although it’s only a matter of percentage points, the specific claim that 87 percent of American adults pay for the policy is incorrect — the actual figure is around 83 percent and may be lower.

It’s also worth noting that while the majority of Americans don’t have college debt, 40 percent have a college degree. Many of them will have paid off their student loans after paying tuition fees that were much lower than today’s rates.

news week has reached out to Dan Crenshaw for comment.

The regulation



It appears that the 87 percent estimate was calculated by dividing the entire US population (including children who don’t pay taxes and can’t rack up college debt) by the number of citizens with college debt.

Adjusting the number to include only those ages 18 and older, the number of American adults with no college debt is actually 83 percent.

FACT CHECK BY Newsweek’s Fact Checking Team Republicans say 87% of American adults have no student loans

Categorized in: