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Black students have the most at stake in SCOTUS debt relief ruling, researcher says

Researchers point to racial wealth disparities across society and programs like Pell Grants that have not kept pace with demand or the cost of college.

WASHINGTON — Supporters of President Biden's student debt relief plan gathered outside the Supreme Court Monday night hoping that when the court hears the case on Tuesday the justices will let the plan move forward – wiping out or reducing debts for millions.

"I worked like three different jobs in college," said Akeisha Latch. "Still, student loan is an issue. It's going to keep being an issue until there's some major changes that are made."

The Supreme Court is hearing two challenges to the plan. One involves six Republican-led states that sued. The other involves a lawsuit filed by two students.

Opponents argue the president has overstepped his authority and say the $400 billion cost over the next three decades is too high.

"Many of the people that we spoke to and we studied and have spoken with really feel like they would be paying off this debt for the rest of their lives," said Fenaba Addo, an associate professor of public policy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who studies debt and wealth inequality.

She says research shows what is missed in this argument is who is most affected by student debt.

She says due to racial wealth disparities and programs like Pell Grants that haven't kept up with demand or the cost college, Black students have the most at stake in this ruling.

The burden of student debt, she said, "really falls on, you know, Black families and households who just don't have access to the same amount of resources."

"If we look at wealth gaps within our society, Black families have about a 10th of the wealth that the median white family has," Addo said.

Outside the High Court, supporters of student debt relief said their commitment is for more than just one night.

"I sure hope that voices that matter," said Latch who, like many here, said regardless of how the court rules, they believe they have momentum to keep pushing this issue across the street at the Capitol.

A decision from the Court is not expected until the end of the term in late June or early July.

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