Survey by D.A. Davidson Found 40% of Student Loan Borrowers Wanted Longer Forbearance

September 13, 2021

Data reveals ability to pay off student loans varies greatly by gender

D.A. Davidson Companies announced today results from a survey on student loan debt, which revealed that an overwhelming majority of the public (81%) believes America has a student debt problem. The sentiment proved consistent among all respondents — regardless of personal experiences with student debt ‐ with three quarters of those who have never had student debt agreeing alongside 89% of those who have.

“As students head back to school, it’s an unfortunate reality that so many of them will finish their education with a lot of debt,” said Andrew Crowell, Vice Chairman of Wealth Management at D.A. Davidson. “Our survey uncovered a resounding need to get the student debt crisis in check and address critical conversations that need to be had between families and advisors to minimize the repercussions from student loans.”

Student Loan Borrowers Hoped for Longer Forbearance Extension

While the Biden Administration announced last month the extension of student loan relief until January 2022, 40% of survey respondents who currently have student loan debt believe the administration should have extended the forbearance for a longer period, beyond January 2022. That said, one in five total respondents were not in favor of the administration’s decision to extend student loan relief until January.

There was a marked difference between respondents’ views of the extension when it comes to their political affiliation. Over half (52%) of self-identified Democrats believed the extension was an appropriate amount of time, compared to 28% of self-identified Republicans who said the same. The second most common response among Democrats was that the forbearance should have been extended longer (29%), while the second most common response from Republicans was that the forbearance should not have been extended at all (24%).

Ability to Pay Student Loans Varies by Gender

Males and females reported different ability to paying off their student loan debt. When asked how respondents approached paying their student loans prior to the forbearance in March 2020, 70% of males made at least their required minimum monthly loan payments, while only half (54%) of females said the same. Nearly two in five females (37%) reported having either struggled or been unable to make their required minimum monthly loan payment prior to the forbearance, compared to one in four males (26%) in the same situation.

Gender played a consistent role in determining one’s ability to pay off student loans over the past year and a half (i.e., during the period of student loan forbearance). More than half of females (55%) stopped making loan payments during this time, versus 36% of males who stopped.

One in ten males and one in five females are not taking any financial planning measures to help pay off their student loan debt (i.e., establishing a budget, applying for loan forgiveness). That said, 38% of males surveyed keep to a weekly or monthly budget, versus 24% of women. Nearly a third (32%) of male respondents noted they make extra loan payments when possible, while less than a quarter (23%) of female respondents said the same.

Generational Divide on Student Debt

More than half of all respondents (55%) were in favor of the government providing wide-scale student loan forgiveness, but only 43% believe it will happen during the Biden Administration. An overwhelming 71% of Millennials were in favor of student loan forgiveness, the highest percentage across all generations surveyed, followed by 64% of Gen Z respondents who felt the same. The majority response from Baby Boomers was the opposite, with 46% not in favor of student debt cancelation, and only 38% of Baby Boomers in favor.

Responses also pointed to a generational divide regarding the use of financial planning tactics to pay off student loan debt. Most respondents who had student loan debt between the ages 45-54 and 55-65 claimed they did not take any financial planning measures to pay off their loans. This far surpassed the only 1% of respondents between the ages of 18-24 who answered this way. Rather, this generation cited that they are taking financial planning measures, such as sticking to a weekly/monthly budget (48%), making extra payments when possible (32%), and using ‘found’ money to make extra payments (28%).


This Xcelerant Survey was conducted online by Directions Research. The survey was fielded from August 12 to August 17, 2021, among a demographically balanced nationally representative sample of 2,143 U.S. adults 18 years of age and older.

About D.A. Davidson Companies

D.A. Davidson Companies is an employee-owned financial services firm offering a range of financial services and advice to individuals, corporations, institutions and municipalities nationwide. Founded in 1935 and headquartered in Montana, with corporate offices in Denver, Los Angeles, Portland and Seattle, the company has approximately 1,400 employees and offices in 28 states.

Subsidiaries include: D.A. Davidson & Co., the largest full-service investment firm headquartered in the Northwest, providing wealth management, investment banking, equity and fixed income capital markets services, and advice; Davidson Investment Advisors, a professional asset management firm; D.A. Davidson Trust Company, a trust and wealth management company; and Davidson Fixed Income Management, a registered investment adviser providing fixed income portfolio and advisory services.

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The information in this communication has been obtained from sources we believe to be reliable, but we cannot guarantee its/their accuracy or completeness. Neither the information nor any opinion in the publication constitutes a solicitation or offer by D.A. Davidson or its affiliates to buy or sell any securities, options, or other financial instruments or provide any investment advice or service.