Current students and borrowers in Maine say they’re disappointed — but not surprised — by the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan.
The court ruled 6-3 Friday that the Biden administration didn’t have the authority to cancel student debt for tens of millions of Americans, including some 177,000 Mainers.
The ruling has many Maine borrowers worried about how they’ll resume payments on their federal loans, though Biden said later Friday afternoon that he’ll pursue new actions to help borrowers.
Among them is 46-year-old Sarah Harden, a licensed clinical social worker and drug counselor who works in Portland. She has more than $100,000 in student debt and said she’s been anxiously awaiting the court’s decision before making plans for her loans.
“Having to resume payments on that determines how much I can put into my community, support my family, decisions I can make for our future, support my parents,” Harden said.
“We’ve been tossed around in the ocean here waiting for some sort of relief,” she added.
With the court’s ruling, interest and federal student loan payments were set to resume later this fall. But Biden said Friday that he could implement a slower ramp-up in repayments.
Still, the prospect is daunting to Ashley Ames, a social work undergraduate at the University of Maine who also has more than $100,000 in debt, with one year of school left. She worries about the ability to repay her loans on a social worker’s salary, but she said she’s determined to enter the field because Maine has a shortage of qualified clinicians.
“I’ve considered being a bartender or being a waitress on top of social work or just on it’s own,” said Ames, who works three jobs over the summer and is set to graduate next year.
And she said her student debt will likely sway her decision to pursue a master’s degree.
“That’s not really in the cards for me, because I need to start working and start paying off this debt that I have. It’s just going to keep accumulating. Going to school for my master’s, whether it’s in the next year or two or three, just doesn’t seem like something that’s attainable for me, because I’m going to have to work. I’m going to have to work multiple jobs.”
And Riley Worth, a rising senior who will be student body president at the University of Southern Maine in the fall, said he pays for school by working nearly full-time throughout the year, and with scholarships and small loans from his family.
“It’s a sensitive topic, because on one hand if I just come out and say, ‘Well, I don’t need it, so no one else deserves it.’ That’s just wholly, factually and economically inaccurate,” he said. “I’m an economics major at the university; I know how other people’s pocketbooks affect mine and the whole economy.”
“But on the other hand I know I’ve been working hard, putting my head down, having one or two jobs at the university and outside of it so I can avoid student loans, because I know how much of a trap they can become,” Worth added. “So I think for students like me and other ones I’ve been talking to who aren’t directly involved, we’d like to see less of a Band-Aid fix and more of a structural fix.”
Worth said he’d like to see Congress direct more resources to help colleges lower their costs. Other states, he said, should look to Maine’s two years of free community college as a potential model.
This story appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.