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Seminar Series: The Emerging Politics of Student Debt Relief Policy

March 29 — 12:30 pm to 1:45 pm

Mallory SoRelle of Duke University stands in front of a stone wall

Mallory SoRelle is an assistant professor of public policy at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University. Her research and teaching explore how public policies are produced by, and critically how they reproduce, socioeconomic and political inequality in the United States.

SoRelle’s talk is titled “The Emerging Politics of Student Debt Relief Policy.” While student loans have enabled generations of Americans to access higher education, the resulting debt—more than $1.9 trillion owed by approximately 46 million borrowers—has been tied to delays in marriage, childbearing, and homeownership. Moreover, ballooning debt has had especially pernicious consequences for Black borrowers, expanding the racial wealth gap. These trends accelerated calls for debt relief in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, prompting the Biden administration to propose cancelling up to $20,000 of federal student debt for certain borrowers. While that plan’s fate is currently in the hands of the courts, it has sparked growing debate about who deserves debt cancellation and what, if any, political consequences will come from enacting student debt relief. This talk will draw from original experimental evidence to explore how the details of different policy provisions—for example, about what type or amount of debt is forgiven and for which borrowers—might condition public support for debt relief and whether debt relief might influence borrowers’ political behavior. We will consider the consequences of Biden’s policy for the emerging politics of student debt relief and the broader debt relief movement.

The La Follette School Seminar Series engages participants in discussion of a range of public policy issues and showcases the research of faculty from the La Follette School, other UW–Madison departments, and outside the UW–Madison community. Faculty, students, and visitors take part in lively dialogue about topics such as poverty and welfare, health, education, international affairs, trade and finance, and the environment. For more information, email Professor Tim Smeeding.


March 29
12:30 pm to 1:45 pm
Event Category:


La Follette School of Public Affairs
View Organizer Website


Ways to attend:
In-person only


Sterling Hall, conference room 1328
475 N Charter St
Madison, Wisconsin 53706
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