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NextGen Magazine


Supreme Court Strikes Down Biden Student Loan Forgiveness Plan

S.J. Steinhardt
Published Date:
Jun 30, 2023

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan to be unconstitutional, The New York Times and others reported.

In a 6-to-3 decision, the high court held, in the case of Biden v. Nebraska, that the “Secretary of Education does not have authority under the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act of 2003 to establish a student loan forgiveness program that will cancel roughly $430 billion in debt principal and affect nearly all borrowers,” according to SCOTUSblog.

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote that a mass debt cancellation program of such significance required clear congressional authorization.

“The Secretary asserts that the HEROES Act grants him the authority to cancel $430 billion of student loan principal. It does not,” Roberts wrote. “We hold today that the Act allows the Secretary to ‘waive or modify’ existing statutory or regulatory provisions applicable to financial assistance programs under the Education Act, not to rewrite that statute from the ground up.”

“Congress authorized the forgiveness plan (among many other actions); the Secretary put it in place; and the President would have been accountable for its success or failure,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote in dissent. "But this Court today decides that some 40 million Americans will not receive the benefits the plan provides, because (so says the Court) that assistance is too ‘significant.’”

President Joe Biden announced the plan in August 2022. It called for the cancellation of up to $20,000 in debt for recipients of Pell Grant recipients with U.S. Department of Education (DOE) loans and up to $10,000 in debt for non-Pell Grant recipients. Eligible recipients of the relief had to make less than $125,000 as an individual or $250,000 as a household.

Since then, the loan forgiveness plan has been subject to several legal challenges. In November 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in St. Louis indefinitely blocked its implementation. The Eighth Circuit issued its order in response to an appeal from six states to a U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri ruling that dismissed the states’ argument that they would be financially harmed by the plan in the form of lost tax revenue. The states are Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas and South Carolina. The case was argued before the high court in February.

Anticipating an unfavorable decision, many students had already started to prepare for the resumption of their loan repayments, which had been paused until Oct. 1, The Washington Post reported.

In addition to the additional burden on some households, the end of the pause could further cool consumer spending by redirecting billions of dollars to monthly loan payments, economists said. Investment bank Jefferies estimates that the renewed payments will come to $18 billion a month, or 3 percent of the $686 billion that the Census Bureau estimates Americans spent on retail and food services in May, according to the Post.

Still, there are ways to eliminate one’s student debt, The New York Times advised. They are: income-driven repayment; public service loan forgiveness; closed or low-performing schools (petitioning the government about the institution for which the loan was issued); bankruptcy discharge, but only in limited circumstances; and disability discharge.