Supreme Court’s ruling on student debt unpends some Louisianans’ budgets: ‘It’s demoralizing’

Supreme Court's ruling on student debt unpends some Louisianans' budgets: 'It's demoralizing'
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Taylor Gonsoulin and her husband got married six months ago, and they’re already scrambling to redo their budget.

Gonsoulin, a 26-year-old occupational therapist from Metairie, said she took out about $60,000 in loans for the Master’s program in occupational therapy at LSU-New Orleans. When President Joe Biden announced his plan to forgive federal student loan debt, she was set to have $10,000 in debt removed.

“My husband was like ‘we can use that ten grand for certain things that we’ll need,’ kind of expecting to have a little bit more cushion than we did,” she said — things like updating the aging air conditioning units in their home.

Then the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 to overturn Biden’s plan, saying he overstepped his executive authority in forgiving the loans. Now Gonsoulin said she and her husband have to rely on good fortune to maintain air conditioning over the hot summer months.

“We definitely budgeted that into our financial plan when we got married only six months ago and that is not an easy amount of money to just whip up,” she said. “So that’s how it affected us and we’re just hoping that we can at least make it through this summer without it being a big issue.”

Gonsoulin is one of the roughly 600,000 people in Louisiana who the Biden Adminisration says would have seen debts erased. More than 400,000 of them were eligible for the maximum $20,000 in loan forgiveness, the White House said. 

Both Biden’s plan and the court ruling overturning it have been highly controversial.

“Putting crippling debt back on the American people after they were finally able to plan their lives without it is cruel and un-American,” Rep. Troy Carter, a Democrat from New Orleans said in the wake of the ruling. “The federal government regularly forgives the debt of businesses, industries, and even small countries. Our students deserve the same.”

Others, however, say dropping repayments was unfair to taxpayers and, as Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy put it on Twitter, “forcing Americans who paid their debt or chose not to go to school to foot bills for people who haven’t paid back their personal loans.”

For those paying back the loans, it has been a seesaw.

“It’s demoralizing”

Pablo Zavala, a 40-year-old assistant professor of Spanish and Latin American Studies at Loyola University, said the Supreme Court ruling will make him responsible for an extra $200 a month in loan payments.

“Financially, it hasn’t affected me yet. But mentally, of course it’s demoralizing,” he said. “It’s very, very demoralizing. I’m supposed to be self-sufficient. I’m supposed to already be a professional man. I’m 40 years old.”

Zavala said he generally relied on student loan forgiveness to pay bills, though he’s still “barely scraping by.”

Pablo Zavala poses at his home in the St. Claude neighborhood of New Orleans, La., Friday, July 7, 2023. (Photo by Sophia Germer,, The Times-Picayune)

“I’m afraid that I’m barely gonna have anything left for anything else,” he said. “That’s not gas. That’s not food, that’s not bills.”

After coming to the United States from Mexico in third grade, Zavala is now a U.S. citizen and makes a trip back to Mexico to visit his family every two years.

Adding loan repayments to his other expenses, Zavala said he’s afraid he won’t get to see his family even once every other year.

“If I got to spend $200 or whatever a month more, I’m afraid that I’m not going to be able to see them,” he said. “Even every two years.”

Louisiana universities respond

Baton Rouge Community College Chancellor Willie Smith said he is “on the fence” about the Supreme Court ruling and understands the decision, but was disappointed for the individuals and families who could benefit from being relieved of significant loan debt.

“I know it’s the right thing to do, but I’m also disappointed that there was not relief for those students who are still trying to adjust,” he said. “There are families that are still suffering post-pandemic and families who are still trying to find a job.

Smith said he thinks more Louisiana students could view community colleges as an increasingly attractive option considering the current cost of higher education and student loan payments. He said about 30% of BRCC students take out loans, usually for help with living expenses and not tuition or fees.

“The jobs are there, we just need to make sure they can afford the training and programming that we have at all our colleges — but certainly the community colleges,” Smith said.

University of New Orleans spokesman Adam Norris said financial aid offices are prepared to assist students seeking guidance about repaying their loans or future student borrowing.

“There are a lot of resources available to borrowers who need assistance with repayment options or default prevention measures should they run into economic hardships and cannot afford repayment,” he said. “With the high interest rates on student loans at this time, we will see students faced with higher debt to complete their degrees.”

Norris said UNO offers exit counseling to consult students on how to make plans for repaying their loans.

“Students who graduate, leave school or fall below half-time enrollment are required to complete exit counseling to ensure they understand their loan obligations and prepare for repayment,” he said. “The U.S. Department of Education and UNO’s Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships go over the current available repayment plans and the students decide which is best for them.”

Mike Strecker, assistant vice president of news and media relations at Tulane, said the university will point students toward federal student aid resources as the loans considered for forgiveness were federal loans.

“We continue to support our students and alumni impacted by this decision by directing them to the official Federal Student Aid website and recommending that students and alumni consider Income Driven Repayment plans for repayment of their student loans,” he said.

Staff writer Mark Ballard contributed to this report.


About Mary Weyand 11096 Articles
Mary founded Scoop Tour with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research. With ample knowledge about the Automobile industry, she also contributes her knowledge for the Automobile section of the website.

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