Our recent statewide poll finds higher education and student debt hot-button topics for voters

Bahar Akman Imboden
Jun 4, 2018 · 3 min read

(Press release)

Boston, MA — A recent poll conducted by Anderson Robbins Research found that large majorities of Massachusetts voters believe the current system of paying for higher education, in which most students and families take out interest-bearing loans from the federal government, is not working. As a result, just 22% of voters think the type of higher education needed to succeed today is accessible to all residents. Voters blame rapid increases in college tuition, as well as the federal loan program encouraging debt, for increasing overall levels of student debt. Few blame borrowers themselves.

Majorities of every demographic group in the poll believe the loan-based system is broken, including 70% of those who took out a loan to pay for college and 70% of voters under age 40. There is even rare bipartisan agreement: 70% of Democrats, 62% of Republicans, and 62% of independents think the current system is not working. Finally, 87% of voters believe that student debt does lasting financial harm, and only 22% believe the type of higher education needed to succeed is accessible to all.

Voters are particularly alarmed by the acceleration of student debt — 87% say the fact that student debt has doubled since the year 2000 sounds like a major problem. Nearly as many (83%) say the fact that almost half of all borrowers are either in default or falling behind on their loans sounds like a major problem. Nearly nine-in-ten voters agree that student debt does lasting financial harm — both to individuals but also to the economy as a whole, as it delays savings and investment.

“As a rising senior, I am terrified of the thousands of dollars of debt that awaits me when I graduate. This is an issue that impacts so many students and graduates, but it feels like something we don’t discuss enough. We are taught that a college degree is needed to succeed, but not what it will truly cost over our lifetimes,” says Adia Turner, a junior at Boston University.

With these results, Hildreth Institute will seek to ignite a discussion across campuses and the Commonwealth on the urgency to address the debt crisis, an issue that impacts students with potentially devastating effects on the our economy. By bringing together groups of students, graduates, and parents, Hildreth Institute seeks to ask what Massachusetts can do to address the student-debt crisis, and to fight to make the issue a broader part of our legislative discourse.

The poll was paid for by the Hildreth Institute, a non-profit organization that is working to expose the unsustainability of America’s higher education funding, as a result of a flawed financial aid system. The Hildreth Institute is working with students, policymakers, and influencers to eliminate student debt from the higher education financing system to replacing it with grants and scholarships.

The Institute was founded by Bob Hildreth, a former economist and debt crisis advisor to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Through his work promoting low-income savings for college, Bob has become increasingly alarmed at how increases in tuition have eaten up savings. He believes that college finance is drowning in student debt impoverishing students and making colleges unable to fill their seats. “I founded the Hildreth Institute because our students, economy, and college system can no longer use student loans as a sustainable financial aid tool. We need to bring students’ voices to the table in the upcoming elections and legislative cycle to propel real change”.

The poll was conducted on a randomized sample of 601 Massachusetts voters (with ±4 margin of error at the 95% confidence level). The telephone survey (landlines and cellular phones) was 20 minutes and was administered over six days (April 13–18, 2018).

Hildreth Institute

The Hildreth Institute is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to restoring the promise of higher education as an engine of upward mobility for all.

Bahar Akman Imboden

Written by

Bahar is co-founder and Managing Director of Hildreth Institute. Working towards solutions to address pervasive inequalities present in our society. McGill PhD.

Hildreth Institute

The Hildreth Institute is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to restoring the promise of higher education as an engine of upward mobility for all.