Looming SCOTUS decision on student loan relief has local impact

ASHLAND, OREGON — About 40 million Americans are awaiting the supreme court’s ruling on President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan.

And what the nation’s highest court decides will impact many in our area.

Whitney Clark is among a fresh new crop of graduates at SOU, where she earned a film degree.

She said it’s an exciting and freeing time in her life, but Clark also is aware that her pause in payments is expected to end in September.

“I can’t help but in the back of my mind know that they’re going to come pounding at my door for my student loans,” Clark said.

Clark comes from a single parent household in Nevada, so she paid the western undergraduate exchange tuition rate.

Under the Biden administration’s student loan debt relief plan, the U.S. Department of education would provide up to $10,000 if your annual income is less than $125,000.

If you’ve received a Pell grant in college, like Clark did, the forgiveness could reach $20,000.

“So, I’m extra on the edge hoping for this to go through,” Clark said. “Because it would alleviate over like two thirds of my debt.”

SOU vice president of enrollment management and student affairs Neil Woolf said 43 percent of SOU students take out student loans, and the average amount of debt each raider has is about $21,500.

He said that number has gone down every year since he’s been on campus.

“$21,500 to 22, 23, 25-year-old is still a significant impact on the monthly budget, for sure.” Woolf said. “And so, we’d like to see that number even continue to decrease.”

Woolf said his academic career took him all the way to UNLV for his doctorate in higher ed administration.

He took out a loan himself. At the time, he was in his 20’s and recently married.

“I took a small loan and was able to pay that off,” Woolf said. “So thankfully, I married a smart person. And we didn’t take out a loan where I couldn’t manage it.”

As far as Clark’s post-graduation plans, she said she’ll grind it out in the fast-food industry so she can start making payments for when they come.

That being said, she has far from given up on her passion.

She’ll make creative projects when she can and submit them to film festivals.

She understands loan forgiveness is a complicated process and a political one as well.

But she’s still hopeful some good will come out of the end result.

“I think that the good that people will be able to do alleviated from the stress and weight of debt student loan debt will be will far outweigh the borrowing conundrum that has come up,” Clark said.

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Marcus Veal is co-anchor of NBC5 News at Sunrise. The San Francisco native graduated from UCLA with a degree in English. He also played trumpet for the UCLA Bruins’ marching band. Marcus earned his Master’s degree in Broadcast and Digital Journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. Marcus loves to work out and make pasta. He roots for the San Francisco Giants, 49ers, Golden State Warriors and UCLA Bruins.
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