How Much Would It Cost to Cancel Student Debt?

Student debt cancellation has become a hot topic in recent years, drawing attention from politicians, economists, and the general public alike. With the rising cost of higher education, many graduates find themselves burdened with substantial student loan debt.

How Much Would It Cost to Cancel Student Debt?

The idea of canceling student debt has gained traction as a potential solution to this growing problem. But how much would it actually cost to cancel all outstanding student debt in the United States?

The Current Landscape of Student Debt

Before diving into the costs associated with canceling student debt, it’s essential to understand the current landscape of student loans in the U.S. As of now, Americans owe over **$1.7 trillion** in student loan debt, spread across approximately **45 million borrowers**. This staggering amount of debt has significant implications for borrowers’ financial futures and the overall economy.

Types of Student Loans

Student loans come in various forms, including federal loans, private loans, and Parent PLUS loans. Federal loans make up the majority of student debt, accounting for about **$1.4 trillion** of the total amount owed. These loans are backed by the federal government and offer borrowers certain protections and repayment options.

Private loans, on the other hand, are obtained from banks or other private lenders and often have higher interest rates and less flexible repayment terms. Parent PLUS loans are federal loans taken out by parents to help finance their child’s education and add another layer to the student debt landscape.

Estimating the Cost of Canceling Student Debt

Calculating the exact cost of canceling all student debt is a complex task that involves numerous factors. However, we can make some rough estimates based on available data and existing proposals for debt cancellation.

Federal Student Loans

As mentioned earlier, federal student loans account for about **$1.4 trillion** of the total student debt. If the government were to cancel all federal student loans, it would cost approximately **$1.4 trillion**. This amount represents the outstanding principal balance of these loans and does not include any interest that would have been accrued over time.

Private Student Loans

Private student loans make up the remaining **$300 billion** of student debt. Canceling these loans would add another **$300 billion** to the total cost of debt cancellation. Unlike federal loans, private loans often have variable interest rates, so the actual cost could vary depending on when the loans were taken out and the terms of each loan.

Administrative Costs

In addition to the outstanding loan balances, there would also be administrative costs associated with canceling student debt. This could include costs related to loan processing, communication with borrowers, and other administrative tasks. While it’s challenging to estimate these costs precisely, they could add several billion dollars to the overall cost of debt cancellation.

Potential Funding Sources

Given the substantial cost of canceling student debt, the question arises: where would the funding come from? Several potential sources could be tapped to finance debt cancellation.

Government Budget

One option would be to allocate funds from the federal budget to cover the cost of debt cancellation. However, this would require Congress to approve significant spending, which could be challenging given the current political climate.

Tax Revenues

Another option would be to raise additional tax revenues to finance debt cancellation. This could be done by increasing taxes on high-income individuals, corporations, or implementing a new tax specifically aimed at funding student debt relief.

Public/Private Partnerships

Some proposals suggest leveraging public/private partnerships to finance debt cancellation. This could involve partnering with private investors or financial institutions to create a fund dedicated to student debt relief.

The Economic Impact of Debt Cancellation

Canceling student debt would undoubtedly have a significant impact on the economy. By relieving borrowers of their debt burden, it would free up disposable income that could be spent or invested elsewhere. This could stimulate economic growth and create jobs, benefiting not just borrowers but the economy as a whole.

Consumer Spending

With less money going towards student loan payments, borrowers would have more disposable income to spend on goods and services. This increased consumer spending could boost demand and stimulate economic activity.


High levels of student debt have been shown to delay homeownership among young adults. By canceling student debt, more young people could afford to buy homes, which could help stabilize the housing market and promote homeownership rates.


Student debt can also discourage entrepreneurship by limiting borrowers’ ability to take financial risks. By eliminating this barrier, debt cancellation could encourage more people to start their own businesses, leading to innovation and job creation.


While canceling student debt would come with a hefty price tag, the benefits could outweigh the costs in the long run. By relieving borrowers of their debt burden, it could stimulate economic growth, increase homeownership rates, and promote entrepreneurship. However, funding such a massive undertaking would require careful planning and consideration of various financing options. As the debate over student debt cancellation continues, it’s essential to weigh the potential benefits against the costs and explore creative ways to make higher education more affordable for all.

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