Student debt isn’t the only reason young voters are voting midterm: NPR

A lawyer celebrates Biden’s executive action on student loans outside the White House, just a day after the president announced the move.

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A lawyer celebrates Biden’s executive action on student loans outside the White House, just a day after the president announced the move.

Stefani Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

When Erin Moore started college, she knew she would go into debt.

But years later, as she strolls through a market in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, making loan payments seems much more within reach.

Student loan relief “will actually allow me to pay,” said Moore, a Philadelphia teacher who qualifies for President Biden’s student debt forgiveness plan. It’s “so much more than I ever thought I could do”.

It’s been nearly two months since Biden announced plans to forgive up to $10,000 in federal student loan debt for borrowers earning less than $125,000 and up to $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients under the same income limit.

The move follows a campaign promise Biden made to young voters.

But when Moore, 25, reflects on why she’s voting midterm, it’s not because of student loans.

“I went to school as an undergrad expecting never to pay off my college debt,” Moore said, “but a woman’s right to choose directly affects me, as well as my family and the people who are dear to me.”

In other words, she votes to protect access to abortion.

Young people may want a student loan forgiveness — and Biden’s plan has broad majority support among Millennials and Gen Z voters — but this election looms over this election is the Dobbs decision. from the Supreme Court last June, which overturned Roe v. Wade and left the right to abortion up to the states, paving the way for many to effectively ban most abortions.

“To be honest, the climate in the country really scares me,” said Shannon Thomas, 25, who is Moore’s girlfriend. She also has federal student loan debt and expects Biden’s executive action could wipe out years of future payments for her.

But she’s also a labor and delivery nurse in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Erin Moore (left) and Shannon Thomas both say that while canceling student debt is important to them, protecting access to abortion is the main reason they are voting in November.

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Erin Moore (left) and Shannon Thomas both say that while canceling student debt is important to them, protecting access to abortion is the main reason they are voting in November.

Elena Moore/NPR

“I worry about my patients and I worry about my job and what the future of my job looks like if we don’t get protection for a woman’s right to choose in this state,” he said. she adds.

Political organizers focused on engaging young voters say protecting access to reproductive care has become key to mobilizing efforts.

“That’s not to say other issues aren’t important,” said Dakota Hall, executive director of Alliance for Youth Action, “but when a constitutionally protected right has been taken away from you for so many decades, it impacts so many people in this country, that it has to be the number one priority.”

He added that that doesn’t mean organizers don’t care about passing environmental legislation or student loan debt or the economy more broadly, but “we know right now what’s going on.” game right now.”

But other advocates say student debt is on that line as well, with some advocating that the White House decide to eliminate all federal student debt or at least write off $50,000.

“I think $10,000 is kind of like – we’re going to give it to you before half term, so you’re going to vote. But I think it’s kind of like we still need more,” Kyra Mitchell, 23, told NPR.

Mitchell, who votes in Michigan, is a member of the NAACP’s youth council. She has federal student loans and says the issue has remained a key priority for the organization — given the massive impact student debt has on black borrowers.

“I think student loan debt definitely adds a crippling effect to African Americans, regardless of age,” she added.

On average, black college graduates owe $25,000 more in college debt than white college graduates — according to Education Data Initiative.

NAACP organizers outside the White House are rallying the administration for more action on student debt forgiveness.

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Stefani Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images


NAACP organizers outside the White House are rallying the administration for more action on student debt forgiveness.

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Mitchell, who also supports safeguarding access to abortion and protecting the right to vote, says debt cancellation could have an impact far beyond just student loans.

“The racial wealth gap that we have also influences reproductive access a lot,” Mitchell said, “And so if we can close one gap, we can also influence that other thing and have like a domino effect.”

Santiago Mayer, executive director of Voters of Tomorrow, says student debt relief and access to abortion are issues that may have similar messages. The message: Republicans want to take away your rights.

“It all ties into this fundamental message of youth rights and how young people deserve to be able to enjoy their lives the same way their parents and grandparents were able to,” he said. at NPR.

“Both with the rights of personal freedoms such as abortion, and also with the ability to have personal finances that allow them to succeed in life, which is now impossible due to the insane cost of college and the burden of student debt,” he added.

This logic resonates with many young people.

Following the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, voter registration has increased among younger voters, especially young women — that’s according to Tom Bonier, the CEO of Target Smart — a Democratic-leaning data company.

“Historically, you see voters being more forceful in a sense of opposition,” Bonier told NPR, “that tends generally to organize voters, and to the extent that there’s a flip side to that, that are usually the voters who are motivated to protect something.”

Bonier saw no significant increase in voter registration or turnout that he could pin on Biden’s executive order on student loans — although, he says, its effect can be seen in an overall increase in the support among the Democratic candidates.

“I think maybe Dobbs will have the effect of training more younger progressive voters to help advocate for choice. Maybe student debt retirement, things like the Education Reduction Act inflation could impact more persuasive younger voters and persuade them to vote for Democratic candidates and see them as representing their interests more,” he added.

Although the vast majority of Millennials and Gen Z voters tend to be liberal, Biden’s plan may have some crossover among younger voters who identify as moderate Republicans – according to a recent poll by Avalanche Insights , the electoral organization, Voto Latino and the student debt cancellation advocacy group. Stand up for free.

The analysis found that a majority of moderate Republicans surveyed — who identify as “soft Trump” — support or somewhat support Biden’s executive action on loans.

And while there’s no explicit correlation, Biden’s approval rating among millennial and Gen Z voters has also increased in recent months, according to NPR’s poll.

The latest NPR Marist poll from late September has Biden at 48% approval among young voters, a five-point increase from late August and a significant change from just 31% in mid-July.

But regardless of the polling and voter data, the White House still has several hurdles to clear before borrowers can receive debt forgiveness.

On the one hand, Americans are still awaiting next steps from the administration on how to seek debt relief. On Saturday, the Department of Education began beta testing the application and invited borrowers to complete it on the federal student aid website ahead of the official launch this month.

Additionally, in recent weeks, a number of Republican-led states have challenged Biden’s executive action in court – arguing that it is an unlawful excess of presidential authority.

And for Mayer, any serious threat to borrowers getting forgiveness could change mobilization efforts again.

“Young people like the government to act and listen to them,” he said. “And if there’s one thing young people don’t like, it’s when the government does something and the court takes it down.”

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