Students and grads whine over ruling holding them accountable for college loans

Anyone who paid attention in Civics 101 to the chapter on the separation of powers between the three branches of American government should have seen it coming. The Cato Institute, among others, immediately flagged President Biden’s attempt to usurp the authority of Congress by letting some 43 million Americans off the hook for $400 billion in college loans as unconstitutional.

“Forcing taxpayers to pick up the tab for other people’s college loans is bad policy, but in the case of President Biden’s order, it is also illegal, because neither President Bident nor the Department of Education has the power to cancel student loans without congressional authorization,” Cato Institute President and CEO Peter Goettler said.

Yet the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling that Biden exceeded his authority still sent some Minnesota college students and graduates who were expecting to be freed of their financial obligation into a frenzy in media outlets like KIMT-TV in Rochester.

It’s not the news students at Rochester Community and Technical College (RCTC) wanted to hear on the final day of summer classes, especially those carrying student debt balances…

Now, with student loan payments set to restart this fall without any debt relief included, students like Mohammad Merza and Jamie Brown expect to struggle to pay their loans back.

“If you’re a student and you’re working, you can’t do it all at the same time,”  said Merza. “We have really big loans, especially with the aviation program here.”

“[The Supreme Court is] continually attacking working families in this country,” added Brown. “We’re already working hard enough, we don’t need more burden on top of that.”

Those holding student loans, including some 775.000 Minnesotans, no doubt became accustomed to the more than three year break from making payments, during a prolonged suspension due to the Covid emergency. While Minnesota State Mankato students obviously felt let down, their bitterness was levelled at the high court, rather than Biden for getting their hopes up or administrators who enable them to go into debt, in talking with the Free Press.

[Emily] Lenarz said what she’s giving back to society with her advanced degree in a giving field — speech and language pathology — isn’t being honored by a Supreme Court that shows it doesn’t value her efforts.

“I have to pay for all of my school, as most college students do,” she said. “Knowing the career I’m going into, I know my debt is going to hang onto me for a long time.”

Lenarz is facing staggering debt, with $30,000 owed now and another $40,000 added for her master’s. “And you can’t work during that, which makes it even more difficult,” she said.

The increasingly high cost of a four-year college degree is a big factor in the dramatic decline in college enrollment nationwide. Many viewed the failed student loan cancellation gambit as a bailout to universities. Yet a student at Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato serves as a reminder that careful planning with student loans can still pay off.

[Samuel] Liffengren is set to graduate in May 2024 and said he’s well-poised to pay back his $24,000 in student loans at that time as his career path is lucrative enough to cover student debt payments.

“It doesn’t make me feel dread,” he said. “I feel like, as a business major, it will give me sufficient funds to function, and part of that is paying off loans I’ve taken out.”