Student Loans

North Texas borrowers react to SCOTUS ruling on student loan forgiveness

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Dallas attorney Lorraine Birabil is among an estimated 1.4 million Texans who were approved for student loan forgiveness, only to learn of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to strike down the Biden administration's plan.

"My husband and I would have qualified for this relief," she said. "Although it wouldn't have erased our entire balance, it would have made a meaningful difference for us."

The Birabils have a son with special needs and must now contend with taking another approach to their finances.

"My son has a medical condition. He's immunocompromised and therefore can't be in a typical childcare environment. Are we going to have to put him in a medically precarious situation because of the decision of the court?" she asks.

The former community activist pushes back against notions of 'pulling yourself up by your bootstraps' when the nation's High Court has thrown a one-two punch this week by striking down college affirmative action programs on Thursday and striking down student loan forgiveness on Friday.

"When you're not able to access that education through admission and even if you are admitted, you're unable to pay for it because your family is not of means, then you don't have shoelaces or shoes to pull yourself up."

NBC 5 asked SMU political science professor Cal Jillson for insight on the decision and its impact affecting 43 million borrowers, including 20 million who would have their entire debt wiped with the president's plan.

While there is a lot of disappointment among borrowers, Jillson said, the High Court's opinion that the plan was an overreach not founded in legislation is not surprising.

While the administration is already vowing to fight back and help borrowers now responsible for resuming loan payments by the fall, "that response will not be nearly the scope of the response of the program that has been struck down," Jillson said.

Some of the potential actions could focus on interest rates or how long borrowers may have to repay.

"You will hear people on both sides of this argument making all kinds of claims of the good that would have been done, the bad that will now befall us," said Jillson. "Much of that needs to be taken with a grain of salt. I think the main result here is that millions of people trying to start their lives, start families, buy homes, do those sort of things, will now be paying back their student loans and be burdened by that."

No doubt there will be political repercussions, he added.

"Not just on the Republican party," said Jillson. "There are groups that put a lot of hope in the Democrat program and now they're disappointed too."

Jillson cautions borrowers who have taken to social media vowing they will never repay the loans they took out for higher education, though he does not believe either party would take it this far.

"At some point there are legal obligations to repay those loans that can be pressed officially," he said. "That could happen certainly under a Republican administration in 2024 or later. The people who are deficient in their loans could be taken to court."

Birabils responds to critics of loan forgiveness who say borrowers knew what they 'signed up for' so pay up: "It's not just the individual responsibility argument. It's easy to say that when certain people are starting at a different standpoint."

Political organization Democrats for Education Reform Texas blasted the court's decision saying 1.4 million Texans qualified for debt relief that totals $18 billion.

Birabils says millennials like herself will continue to find themselves too burdened with loan repayments and unable to purchase a house.

The college graduate worries about her children's educational future, believing generational debt will increase due to the decision. Soon enough, everyone will end up paying the price, she warns.

"If this executive order had been upheld, it was an opportunity for people to be lifted up. But instead, we're talking about generational debt that will continue to be passed down," said Birabils. "If we are going to decide that this is the direction our country needs to go, we will have to accept the fact that we will continue to lag behind educational attainment."

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