Biden’s student loan relief plan, which would cancel up to $10,000 in federal student debt for borrowers, and offer an additional $10,000 of relief to borrowers who received Pell Grants, was blocked on Friday, October 21 by a federal appeals court.

Republicans argue that the Biden administration’s plan is “economically unwise and downright unfair,” and that the relief will not go to those who really need it.

To find how recipients would use the extra money they would have each month, in October, Intelligent.com surveyed 1,250 individuals who have applied or plan to apply for Biden’s student loan forgiveness program.

Key findings:

  • 73% of applicants say they are likely to spend their extra money on non-essentials, including vacations, smartphone, drugs/alcohol
  • Men more likely than women to spend the money on non-essentials (84% vs 65%)
  • 2x as many Democrats than Republicans say it’s acceptable to spend the money on non-essentials
  • 77% of applicants say they could use money more wisely
  • 4 in 10 say student loans haven’t negatively affected their lives

3 in 4 applicants plan to spend extra money on non-essentials

Overall, 73% of applicants say they are likely to spend their extra money on non-essential items. Men are more likely than women to say they will use the additional money this way (84% vs 65%).

The plurality (52%) of applicants say they are ‘very likely’ or ‘likely’ to buy new clothing and accessories with the extra funds they’ll have. Using the money for a vacation (46%) or eating out at restaurants (46%) were also popular answer choices.

Additionally, applicants say they are likely spend the extra money on:

  • Smartphone (44%)
  • Investing in the stock market (43%)
  • Gifts (42%)
  • Gaming system (36%)
  • Wedding (30%)
  • Drugs/Alcohol (28%)
  • Gambling (27%)

Despite the fact that most don’t plan to practice what they preach, 73% do agree using student relief to buy non-essential goods is wrong.

Even though they are more likely than women to spend money on all of the items we asked about, 80% of men say spending on non-essentials isn’t the right thing to do compared to 67% of women.

Nearly twice as many Democrats than Republicans feel spending on non-essentials is an acceptable thing to do (12% vs 7%).

It’s worth noting, many recipients do also say they are likely to use the money on essential purchases. The pluraily (75%) will put the money toward groceries, 66% rent/mortgage payments, 65% credit card debt, 62% transportation-related costs, 60% medical care/debt, and 40% childcare.

8 in 10 say they could use money more wisely

The vast majority of applicants (77%) say in terms of their spending habits, it would be possible for them to spend less and save more money.

This is more true of men than women; 86% of men compared to 70% of women say it would be possible. Nearly twice as many women than men (15% vs 8%) say it would be nearly impossible or impossible for them to spend less money.

Overall respondents who say it would be possible for them to save money,  say they could do so in the following areas:

  • Food (45%)
  • Entertainment (44%)
  • Retail shopping (39%)
  • Travel (29%)
  • Personal care (27%)
  • Utilities and household costs (26%)
  • Alcohol/Drugs (25%)
  • Transportation (21%)
  • Housing (rent/mortgage) (18%)

For men who say they could save more money, 48% say they could spend less on entertainment, 47% on food, 38% on retail shopping. For women, 44% say they could spend less on food, 41% on entertainment, and 39% on retail shopping.

4 in 10 say student loans haven’t negatively affected their lives

When asked how negatively student loans affect their life, 8% of respondents say ‘not negatively at all’ and 9% ‘not very negatively. An additional 22% say their lives haven’t been affected. On the other hand, 32% say their lives have been affected ‘somewhat negatively’ and 28% ‘very negatively.’

Men are more likely to say student loans haven’t had a negative impact (47% vs 34%).

Methodology

All data found within this report derives from a survey commissioned by Intelligent.com and conducted online by survey platform Pollfish. In total, 1,250 Americans were surveyed.

Appropriate respondents were found via Pollfish’s screening tools a screening question. To take the survey respondents had to answer that they applied or plan to apply to the student loan forgiveness program and are not currently a student.

This survey was conducted on October 20, 2022. All respondents were asked to answer all questions truthfully and to the best of their abilities. For full survey data, please email [email protected]