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Top state Republicans criticize Biden student loan plan

Kenzie Wagner

South Dakota’s congressional delegation is condemning the Biden administration's student loan forgiveness plan.

The move by the White House, forgives up to $20,000 in student loan debt for those making $125,000 or less a year.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, South Dakotans have an average of $31,979 in federal student debt.

U.S. Sen. John Thune is the second ranking Republican in Senate. He called the debt program relief ‘unfair.’ Thune said he financed his college degrees himself.

“I got some scholarship help. I paid for it with loans. I worked hard every summer to save money. I didn’t come from a family that could help me," Thune says. "I went to undergrad at a private school. Grad school, I went to the University of South Dakota. A lot of it was just scholarships and loans, like a lot of students around the country.”

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost for tuition and fees in the U.S. for the year Thune graduated was $2,344.

Thune's alma mater, Biola University in California, now estimates its cost for tuition is over $44,000 per year.

That doesn’t include room and board or books.

U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds said he has constitutionality concerns about the move by the Biden administration.

He said he graduated with his undergrad degree with about $10,000 in student loans.

“I carried it forward and paid it off over a period of about eight years afterwards, while I was back in the business community with a growing family,” Rounds says. “Jean, at that time, she actually came through and had some student debt. But not near as much as I did. She was a better saver than I was. But, we just paid it off over a period of about eight years.”

Rounds graduated from South Dakota State University in 1977. The national annual cost for tuition, room and board that year was $2,400.

SDSU estimates that cost is now over $17,000 a year.

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.