Borrowers react to Supreme Court’s student loan forgiveness ruling

With a mix of grief, disappointment and anger, student loan borrowers absorbed the impact of Friday’s Supreme Court ruling, striking down President Biden’s plan to cancel up to $20,000 in federal student loan debt.

Many waited anxiously for more than a year for Biden to come up with a plan to fulfill his campaign promise, only to have to abandon that plan due to legal challenges. Some had hoped the court would side with the administration, but their hopes were dashed by Friday’s 6-3 ruling against one of Biden’s signature economic policies.

“I feel that the Supreme Court represents us and our interests. Don’t they care? Or because they’re so far away from it, they don’t have to think about it,” said Shira Bluminberg, 26, a graduate of Eastern Illinois University. “They don’t need to understand or see it from the point of view of regular people who just can’t afford that extra cost.”

Protesters gathered outside the Supreme Court on June 30 to protest the conservative majority’s decision to repeal President Biden’s student loan relief. (Video: Billy Tucker/The Washington Post)

Bluminberg, who works as an FMLA claims specialist, said the $450 a month she earns isn’t enough to pay off her student loans. He applied to Biden’s program in hopes of lifting the burden, but now feels uncertain and confused about what’s next.

“Maybe I should work harder? Maybe I’ll get a better job?” She said. “We go to college, we apply ourselves, we come into the world with enthusiasm, and the world doesn’t really welcome all of us. Everyone expects you to struggle and work hard, but no one wants to help.

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Biden promises new path to student loan relief after judicial backlash

Scarlett Anderson, a 28-year-old graphic designer, said the ruling left her feeling helpless and skeptical about the choices available to people seeking higher education. At one point, Anderson diligently paid off his student loans. But despite her efforts, making significant progress in reducing her debt is nearly impossible.

“A lot of people think you have a choice whether you go to college or not, but I don’t feel that’s true. We live in a country now where most jobs require a college degree,” said Anderson, an Arizona State University graduate with $33,000 in student loans.

Anderson signed up for Biden’s program after a colleague had all of his student loans forgiven through another program. He says it gave him confidence. “Now that the Supreme Court has rejected student loan waivers, I’m not convinced,” he said.

Biden has proposed eliminating up to $10,000 in student loans for those earning up to $125,000 annually or for married couples borrowing up to $250,000. Recipients of Pell Grants, a form of financial aid for low- and moderate-income students, are eligible for an additional $10,000 in forgiveness.

Within hours of the court’s ruling, Biden announced plans to move the debt relief program through the regulatory rulemaking process. That effort could take months and face other legal challenges. However, this effort shows that the administration is not ready to abandon the policy.

Speaking to reporters on June 30, President Biden condemned the Supreme Court’s decision to reject his student loan forgiveness plan (Video: The Washington Post)

Eric Tones, 55, who would have been eligible for $10,000 in loan forgiveness, was upset by the ruling rather than Republicans appearing to offer alternative solutions.

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“They care more about the culture war than everyday people,” he said. “I’m more concerned about the interest accruing on these loans.”

When the 2008 recession hit, Dones, who lives in Dallas, worried he might lose his manufacturing job. So he went to college, graduating in 2013 with about $80,000 in debt and a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Phoenix. Over 10 years, he said he paid back about $25,000. He still owes $112,000.

He was “hated” by Republican politicians who, in his view, only benefited from the amnesty.

“I don’t know anyone rich enough to have to take out loans for college,” he said.

Who has student loans in the US?

He doesn’t think full amnesty is “fair to anybody,” but if banks and corporations can get lower interest rates, students should too.

A $10,000 forgiveness would only partially reduce his $1,500 in monthly payments; He wants the government to demand lower interest rates on student loans. He pays 7 percent, and it’s hard to make a dent, he said.

“Economic mobility is getting harder and harder,” Tones said. “And the cost of education is out of control. The lender and the university have placed all the risk on the students. If the government is going to lend money for education, it should be allowed to condition the loan agreement.

Sharon Elliott was “heartbroken” when she heard her last $20,000 in student loans would not be forgiven. The 30-year-old graduated from the University of Louisville in 2016 with $33,000 in debt and followed the case closely from Indianapolis, where he lives. He knew there was a possibility the Supreme Court would reject the Biden administration’s plan, but he remained optimistic.

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“Terrible — I’m doing terribly,” he told The Washington Post. “It was devastating because I would have literally been debt free.”

He said that if he had received relief, he would have bought a house and started having children. During the suspension of payments, he married his wife in a 30-person marriage, otherwise he was not sure he would be able to pay. He wants to pay off the remaining debt before starting a family.

He said he understood some people’s arguments that many of the borrowers had willingly signed on for the loan and were responsible for paying it back, but he wanted people across the country to have more sympathy for the 40 million affected.

Elliott was raised by a single mother and said she needed a Pell Grant to pay for college. Without credit, I don’t know what Elliott, who is black, would have done. He felt his experience with loans and student debt was similar to that of other black men and women.

“In a lot of ways, it’s been difficult for us,” Elliott said. “For many of us, the only way to go to school is to get some kind of loan.”

It wasn’t until Friday evening that he heard Biden make another announcement following the Supreme Court’s ruling. He didn’t pay much attention to it.

“I take it with a grain of salt at this point,” he said. “In my mind, it’s basically over. I hate to say it, but I have to plan for what’s coming. I’ll sacrifice another year or two of my life to get out of this trap.

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