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Outside Supreme Court, Students Rally for Loan Forgiveness


WASHINGTON — Hundreds of protesters, many college students from across the country, rallied outside the Supreme Court on Tuesday, carrying signs and posters urging the justices to back President Biden’s effort to cancel some $400 billion in student loan debt.

Democratic lawmakers like Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Robert Menendez and Representatives Ayanna Pressley and Judy Chu addressed supporters of the plan from the steps of the Supreme Court.

Ms. Warren criticized the Supreme Court for “playing politics,” urging listeners to not let “an extremist court take away an opportunity for millions of Americans to have a little racial justice, a little economic justice, a little opportunity to build more secure futures going forward.”

The plaintiffs in the Supreme Court cases have argued that Mr. Biden’s plan to cancel debt oversteps his executive authority and the scope of the law the administration used to justify it.

Many students outside the court on Tuesday said they had thousands of dollars in student debt.

Kaylah Lightfoot, a sophomore at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Va., and a first-generation college student who was among the students bused in by the NAACP, said the prolonged court fight over the program was stressful.

“I’m only in my second year and I’m truly just trying to stay focused and keep on going,” Ms. Lightfoot said. She said she had $12,875 in student loan debt.

Lindsey Selter, 20, a student at Eastern Michigan University, said she felt privileged to have financial and emotional support from her parents, who were never able to graduate from college. But she still expects to graduate with more than $10,000 in student loans.

“I can see why there’s backlash” against Mr. Biden’s plan, she said, but Ms. Selter said she saw the debt cancellation as an investment in the nation’s future. “We need to educate people. We want this new generation to make a better future.”

Eric Lotke, a father of two from Arlington, Va., said he understood the argument of those who insist that students should take responsibility for the cost of their education, like previous generations did. But he slammed the cases being heard before the Supreme Court on Tuesday, brought in part by Republican officials, as “bad-faith politics.”

Mr. Lotke, who works for the National Education Association, one of the dozens of groups that organized the rally on Tuesday, said his parents paid for his higher education decades ago.

Mr. Lotke also paid college tuition for his children, who are now in their mid-20s. But he said that his son’s girlfriend was set to have the maximum amount of student loan debt, $20,000, forgiven by Mr. Biden’s plan.

“She burst into tears, it was such a big deal for her,” he said, tearing up as he remembered her emotional reaction at her debt being cut in half. “$40,000 was more than she could handle. $20,000 is manageable for her.”

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