The Supreme Court ruled against President Joe Biden’s unique student debt forgiveness plan to cancel up to $20,000 in federal student loan debt for more than 40 million borrowers.
The news has distraught borrowers across the country who have benefited from the Covid-era debt payment pause for the last three years.
Among those most upset by the Supreme Court’s decision are the nearly 20 million people, according to the Biden administrationlike Joy Morales-Bartlett, whose debt was completely cancelled.
“It’s discouraging,” Morales-Bartlett said. “We have done the right thing all this time, and we are being punished for it.”
With a remaining balance of $19,000, the 47-year-old former teacher hoped to see her decades-long journey to pay off $89,000 in student loan debt finally come to an end.
The payment pause made the public «add to the concept of debt cancellation,» Natalia Abrams, president and founder of the Student Debt Crisis Centerhe said, «because people got to see what their life would be like without student debt.»
While Biden’s debt forgiveness plan wasn’t designed to completely eliminate all student loans, millions of borrowers hoped it would ease some of the financial burden they’ll face in October, when the Covid-era debt payment pause is about to end.
Paul Berlet, who graduated from Pennsylvania’s Kutztown University last year with a degree in secondary English education, is now a sixth-grade English teacher in Delaware. During her time at the school, Berlet racked up around $20,000 in federal student loans.
«You shouldn’t need to be in debt to start your life,» Berlet said. «That’s not a good way to start your adult life.»
After multiple student debt payment pause extensions since 2020, Congress recently passed a law preventing further extensions. The pay pause allowed people to focus on other basic needs like childcare, health care, rent costs or, for some, accumulating savings for the first time, Abrams said, citing surveys conducted by the Student Debt Crisis Center.
This was the case for Esther Jean-Marie, 30 years old. As the Connecticut resident has seen her rent and living expenses rise in the past three years, not having to worry about her student loan allowed her to keep up with the rising costs.
According to the US Department of Education.Student loan interest will resume on September 1 and payments will be due beginning in October.
“Taking on that extra bill now is even more stressful than I think it was during the pandemic, because everything is so expensive now,” Jean-Marie said.
Shaniece Conyers, 33, is also in a similar situation. An organizer for student loan fundthat helps predominantly black and Latino borrowers in Connecticut manage debt, Conyers has been reworking his budget spreadsheet ahead of October.
Abrams said she’s «very concerned» about millions of payments «going off all at once.»
«There is a lot of concern that there will be confusion among student loan borrowers and confusion with student loan servicers,» Abrams said.
Worried about falling short
The confusion may be most noticeable among young people who haven’t had to make any payments on their student loans because they graduated from college while the Covid-era debt payment pause it was still in place.
Berlet and Erika Guevara, from New York City, are among them.
Guevara, 24, graduated from the City College of New York last year with a bachelor’s degree in environmental science. During his time at the school, he racked up around $20,000 in federal student loans.
Although Guevara works two jobs, at a restaurant and at a membership club, he said he still struggles to pay rent and living expenses, often running up credit card debt to make ends meet.
Going to college in the era of social distancing and remote learning deprived Guevara of the field experiences necessary for her to get a job in her field of study, she said.
Guevara wants to go back to school and get a master’s degree in urban design with a specialization in green infrastructure, sustainability and environmental systems to broaden her job prospects, “but I’m worried about getting more loans,” she said.
“It’s like having a cloud over you, when you constantly think about your debt,” Guevara said.
according to a Pew Research Center 2021 AnalysisFirst-generation college graduates like Guevara tend to have lower incomes and accumulate less wealth, on average, compared to those with a parent who has a bachelor’s degree or higher, complicating their ability to repay loans.
With her first payment on student debt due in October, Guevara said she can only wish she could. «I don’t think anyone is ready.»
Berlet said she was able to save some money during the pay break and currently has a summer job.
“All of that money is going to be saved to help me pay off the loans,” he said.
Berlet is still concerned that despite her best efforts, she still won’t be able to make her upcoming monthly student loan payments while paying her rent, buying the school supplies needed to outfit her classroom, and making monthly payments on a car loan you recently obtained to replace your old car.
«It’s like a forced debt,» Berlet said. «If I want to be a teacher, and I want to be a teacher, I love my job, there is no other way to be a teacher than to take on that debt.»