If President Joe Biden forgives $1.7 trillion of debt for college loans, will New Hampshire Democrats like Sen. Maggie Hassan support him?

So far, no comment.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen has clearly expressed her support for Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) plan to forgive at least $10,000 of debt per borrower.

Hassan, however, has repeatedly declined to comment. Her few public comments have been vague and non-committal — perhaps a sign the first-term senator sees potential political peril.

Supporters of shifting the cost of college debt onto taxpayers say it will help the economy. “Student loan debt is holding back tens of millions of people across this country who can’t buy homes, buy cars, or start small businesses,” Warren said via Twitter. “President Biden needs to #CancelStudentDebt not only for those people individually but also for our whole economy.”

While still a candidate in 2020, Biden also said he supported “an immediate cancellation of a minimum of $10,000 of student debt per person, as proposed by Sen. Warren,” The estimated price tag, according to the New York Federal Reserve, would be $321 billion. A proposal to forgive $50,000 of debt per borrower would cost taxpayers $904 billion.

And the vast majority of that money would go to Americans who are wealthy, suburban, and White.

“The highest-income 40 percent of households (those with incomes above $74,000) owe almost 60 percent of the outstanding education debt and make almost three-quarters of the payments,” according to the left-leaning Brookings Institution. “The lowest-income 40 percent of households hold just under 20 percent of the outstanding debt and make only 10 percent of the payments.”

And National Review’s Jim Geraghty points to this data from the New York Federal Reserve:

  • Despite being 25 percent of the population, borrowers who live in high-income neighborhoods hold 33 percent of federal balances, while borrowers residing in low-income areas hold only 23 percent of balances.
  • Under a $10,000 forgiveness policy, 33 percent of forgiveness would go to majority-minority neighborhoods while 67 percent would go to majority-white neighborhoods.

Student loan borrowers have already enjoyed a COVID-19 holiday from loan payments at an estimated cost of $100 billion to taxpayers, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB). That holiday has been extended until September due to alleged economic hardship, despite the fact unemployment among college graduates is just two percent.

Advocates of fiscal responsibility have spoken out against the debt forgiveness proposal.

“I paid off my student loans early. Why would others do that if Biden starts forgiving them?” asked Granite Stater Matthew Noyes. He received his associate’s degree from Great Bay Community College in Portsmouth and his bachelor’s from SUNY Albany.

“Most people don’t have any college debt, because most people don’t go to college, or they already paid theirs off,” CRFB senior policy director Marc Goldwein told NHJournal. “So they get nothing. Meanwhile, forgiving college debt helps a small but significant share of the population a little bit, and a very, very small share of the population a lot.”

That very small share is disproportionately made up of people who took out big loans to pay for graduate programs.

“Someone else can address the politics, but I know I’m not really interested in a policy that sends a lot of money to doctors, lawyers, and MBAs but nothing to people who didn’t go to college,” Goldwein said. “That’s especially true at a time when voters understand inflation is high because of excessive government spending. And forgiving student loans is definitely government spending.”

NHJournal first tried to get Hassan to share her position on broad-based student loan forgiveness in November 2020. Hassan’s press spokesperson responded to the inquiry by hanging up on the reporter.  Hassan has since declined to respond to more than a dozen requests for comment on the topic from NHJournal.

In interviews with other media outlets, she has been careful never to give a direct answer on the topic. For example, during an NHPR call-in show last year, Hassan was asked by a caller if she supported $10,000, $50,000, or total loan forgiveness. After a rambling 290 word answer:

CALLER: “So no specifics yet on $10,000, $50,000, all of it. You want to look at who’s getting that forgiveness for example? You know, kids who come from wealthy families or so forth and so forth?”

HASSAN: “That’s right.”

Hassan has come out in favor of targeted college debt relief, such as plans to lower monthly payments, and offering debt relief for people who choose to go into public service careers.

Interestingly, a new national poll released Monday by the Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School shows only 38 percent of 18-29-year-olds support total debt cancellation.

Perhaps more importantly, older Granite State voters strongly oppose debt forgiveness according to a University of New Hampshire poll released in February 2021. More than half of 35-64-year-olds opposed any college debt relief, with only a quarter of voters over 50 supporting the $50,000 forgiveness plan.

And while young people may hashtag, older people vote — particularly in midterms.

Hassan’s potential GOP opponents are declaring their opposition to debt relief and denouncing her silence.

“Forgiving student debt is a terrible idea that creates a moral hazard and weakens an already weak system,” said GOP U.S. Senate candidate and Bitcoin millionaire Bruce Fenton. “It’s also profoundly unfair to people who were responsible about their debt and education decisions. The cold hard truth is that academia has sold a generation of students on a lifetime of debt for increasingly worthless degrees. No one else should have to pay for this.”

Retired Gen. Don Bolduc said, “Student loan forgiveness is nothing more than a liberal handout at the expense of the hard-working middle class most. New Hampshire residents don’t have college degrees. They shouldn’t be responsible for bailing out the elites that took on this debt in the first place.”

Vikram Mansharamani, an entrepreneur and author who just recently entered the primary asked, “Why pay off debt that’s disproportionately held by high earners and those from wealthy families? Canceling student debt is a regressive policy. It places the burden on all taxpayers and those who (apparently naively) paid off their loans — like yours truly — while providing disproportionate benefit to high earners.”

Former Londonderry Town Manager Kevin Smith said Hassan’s “socialist proposal does not eliminate student debt, it just forces everyone else to pay for it. There is no reason for a tradesman who didn’t attend college to subsidize the degrees of lawyers with high incomes, or any of the vastly more questionable degrees offered that fail to prepare students for the workforce.

“Speaking of debts,” Smith added. “Maggie Hassan owes Granite Staters an answer on whether she supports this socialist proposal. Enough dodging the question as you have for years, it’s time to pay up.”