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Photo collage of a graduate student standing in the middle of a slightly unbalanced seesaw with rocks on either side
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Student loan forgiveness, once a far-fetched idea from progressives, seemed to become reality in August when President Joe Biden announced a plan to cancel debt for some 40 million Americans. Six months later, many borrowers are back to dreaming.

As the Biden administration and conservative groups now debate their student loan forgiveness arguments before the Supreme Court, borrowers are worriedly wondering if the relief they were promised will ever come their way.

It’s rare in U.S. politics that a president's order — or the fate of a court case — carries this much immediate weight for the finances of so many Americans.

If the Supreme Court upholds the loan forgiveness program, millions of student loan borrowers will have up to $20,000 of debt wiped out — potentially the difference of a couple hundred dollars in monthly payments. Borrowers say the result of the debt relief case could determine whether they're able to buy a house or repair their credit, while the uncertainty has complicated financial decisions.

Over the past few years, the pendulum's moved back and forth, from debt forgiveness being a campaign promise of Democrats on the trail, to borrowers feeling like forgiveness was a sure thing when the program was announced, to feelings of defeat when the government was forced to close the application portal. Now, it could all come down to the opinions of the nine justices on the court.

Student loan borrowers brace for the possibility of bad news

Sadae Bey, who works as a janitor in Richmond, Va., has about $30,000 in student loan debt and could owe more than $300 per month when repayment resumes. She received a need-based Pell Grant when she was in college, so she was expecting to have $20,000 forgiven when she learned about loan forgiveness. But with the program tied up in a legal battle, she's no longer optimistic it will happen.