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Utahns react to U.S. Supreme Court decision to block student loan forgiveness case

Posted at 7:18 PM, Jun 30, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — The U.S. Supreme Court has blocked President Joe Biden's plan to forgive up to $20,000 in student loan debt per person.

The court argued in a divided decision that the Biden administration must get congressional approval for their $400 billion loan forgiveness program.

Sierra Mendoza is incoming senior studying biology at the University of Utah. She is a first-generation college student and has had to take out loans to pay for her schooling.

"I'm at about $10,000 right now, and in the upcoming couple years, I'm probably going to have to get some more out — upwards of $10,000 more," she said.

Mendoza said she is disappointed, but not surprised, by the Supreme Court's decision to block the Biden administration's plan to implement student loan forgiveness.

"I feel like our country isn't super focused on our extended education after high school," she said.

Under the plan announced by the Secretary of Education last August, those who received a Pell Grant would have been eligible for up to $20,000 in student loan forgiveness.

Those who didn't receive a Pell Grant could have netted up to $10,000 in relief.

Chris Peterson, a law professor at the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah, worries about who this decision could impact the most.

"Students that are, you know, struggling at for-profit, private colleges, that you know, maybe are even more expensive than public schools and don't really give the kind of credential that's going to help those students get a great job in the marketplace, they're going to be ones that are struggling the hardest to repay these student loans," he said.

Bill Duncan, an attorney and religious liberty fellow at the Sutherland Institute, believes the Supreme Court made the right decision.

"Although the case isn't really about the constitution directly, it is in the sense that, you know, each branch has sustained its own lane and the executive branch can't decide to change an act that Congress passed," he said.

Duncan is referring to the Heroes Act, which was passed by Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush, to reduce or eliminate student loan debt during a national emergency.

Six states sued, arguing that the act does not authorize Biden's loan cancellation plan.

According to the Utah System of Higher Education, students who held any federal loan debt in Utah will be affected by the Supreme Court's ruling. Utah had approximately 319,000 total federal loan borrowers as of March of this year. However, compared to the rest of the country, Utah has some of the lowest student loan debt.

Officials with the Utah System Higher Education say the repayment process begins again in August, and Utahns with federal student loans will need to resume their payments beginning in October. However, they can make earlier payments, interest-free.