NEW YORK — A new survey by the Pew Research Center finds that about two-thirds of Americans support the creation of a federal student loan repayment plan, and another two-third support it as a way to address the ballooning cost of higher education.
The survey found that nearly four-in-ten Americans support increasing the amount students can borrow to pay for college, while about one-in, and about two in ten, support eliminating the requirement for student loan debt entirely.
While many Americans would like to see a federal government-backed loan program to help students pay for their college education, a majority of respondents said they do not support it.
Americans are split on whether it’s time to eliminate the requirement to pay back student loans or make the program a national entitlement program, with 44% saying it is time to keep the requirement in place and 42% saying that is not a priority.
Among those who do support eliminating student loan debts, support for the idea has increased by about half since last summer.
In the fall of 2015, just 33% said they supported eliminating the $1,700 per-year student loan interest that students must pay each year, while 40% said it was not a top priority for them.
In April, just 29% said eliminating the student loan requirement was a top priorities, and a majority said they support the idea.
More Americans than ever say the nation needs to increase the minimum wage, but there is no significant change in the percentage of Americans who support increasing that wage.
There is also a clear partisan divide in the way Americans see the importance of the student debt problem.
Nearly seven-inten Republicans and Democratic-leaning independents support a national student loan forgiveness program, and nearly half of Republicans support it, while a majority are opposed.
About one-third of Democrats and a slim majority of independents say the federal government should not be responsible for student loans, while roughly one-quarter of Republicans and a small majority of Democrats support that idea.
Among the younger generation, the issue of student loan relief is especially divisive.
Only about a third of Americans under 35 say the government should be responsible, but almost half of those 65 and older favor a national debt forgiveness program.
College students are also divided on the extent to which the federal student debt burden should be handled by the government, with a majority in the 25-34 age group, as well as those 55 and older, saying the federal debt should be completely wiped out.
About two-in‐ten Democrats and Republicans agree with that statement, and one-fourth of Democrats say it should be managed by the federal Government.
Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say the student loans burden should remain the responsibility of the federal and state governments, with 51% saying the burden should not go to the state and the other 45% saying there should be no federal debt forgiveness.
About three-quarters of Democrats also say the debt should remain a federal problem and about half of independents agree with the statement.
About half of all respondents to the Pew survey said that there should at least be some federal student assistance for low-income Americans.
The Pew survey is based on landline and cellphone interviews with 1,004 adults nationwide, including 862 registered voters who are Republicans and 836 Democrats.
The margin of sampling error for the overall results is plus or minus 3 percentage points.
The Pew Research study was commissioned by the Education Trust, a nonprofit educational organization that works to expand access to higher education, and is part of a larger Pew Research Foundation project exploring the views of the American public.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.