Borrowers find themselves cut off when it comes to student loan disputes in court

WASHINGTON (AP) — Niara Thompson can’t shake her frustration as the Supreme Court debates. President Joe Biden’s Student Loan Cancellation When he heard from the audience on Tuesday, it all felt educational. There was a long discussion about the nuances of certain words. Judges asked lawyers to explore hypothetical scenarios.

For Thompson, none of this is imaginary. A student at the University of Georgia, she grew up watching her parents struggle with student loans, and she will graduate with about $50,000 in student loans of her own.

“I felt like people would never understand why we wanted something like this,” he said. “I wanted to be like, ‘You don’t understand.’ You all focus on this, but here are people struggling to find food for their families.

Much of the debate at Tuesday’s hearing centered on whether states have the legal right to sue over Biden’s student loan plan. But the justices examined whether Biden had the power to write off hundreds of billions of dollars in debt without the express approval of Congress, which determines how taxpayer money is spent.

It is not uncommon for Supreme Court cases, even public interest cases, to hang on legal technicalities. For borrowers following Tuesday’s arguments, it was lonely to reduce such a personal matter to statutory language.

Thompson was one of a few dozen borrowers Questions the administration’s authority to wipe out the debt of millions of Americans. Some of the court’s liberal justices have repeatedly tried to redirect arguments to the people who would benefit from the program, pointing to their need for relief. In response, conservatives asked whether college graduates should have to pay off loans.

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For Thompson’s family, the payment has been owed for years. Student loan payments have been on hold since the start of the pandemic, but are set to resume 60 days after resolution of court cases – regardless of outcome.

Thompson and his father are each eligible for $10,000 in damages, he said. It would move her one step closer to financial stability, Thompson said, and it would eliminate her dad’s debts.

“It hurt my feelings a little bit,” he said of the arguments Tuesday. “I want to do us good, you know?”

The mood inside the courthouse — calm and formal — was in stark contrast to the atmosphere outside as dozens of activists rallied in support of the repeal. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT.

Advocates took to the stage to share stories of family sacrifices and life milestones postponed due to high student debt.

Ella Azole, a 26-year-old resident of Washington, visited the rally to join the push for debt relief, which she called a “family issue.” Azoulay, a 2018 graduate of New York University, has $40,000 in student loans, while her dad has taken out more than $400,000 on behalf of her and her two siblings.

“I can’t really think about my future without thinking about this huge debt,” he said. “My father has no plans to retire. He’s 60 and has been saying all my life that he can’t retire. That is very sad to hear.

During the hearing, liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor said her fellow justices were wrong to take it upon themselves, instead of leaving it up to education experts, to attack struggling people if the program has the “right to decide how much aid to provide.”

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Other judges have also pointed to the plight of borrowers. Justice Clarence Thomas, a staunch conservative on the court, has written about the “crushing weight” of his own student loans.He paid after reaching the Supreme Court of the country.

Kayla Smith, 22, joined Thompson at the overnight gameout for a courtside seat. The recent graduate of the University of Georgia also felt the debate missed the bigger picture.

Smith’s mother took out more than $20,000 in federal Parent Plus loans to help pay for college. Smith sees the result of a broken system that drives people into debt for a shot at social mobility.

“They paid attention to the little, little details,” Smith, of Atlanta, said of the judges. “I even saw some of them laughing during the trial, which I found strange because people’s lives have been affected. At least it’s no laughing matter for us. ___

The Associated Press Education Group receives support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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