Court Battles

Student debt relief challengers make case to Supreme Court

Challengers to the Biden administration’s student debt relief plan submitted their written arguments to the Supreme Court on Friday, contending the administration overstepped its authority.

In their separate briefs, six Republican-led states and two individual loan borrowers who did not qualify for the relief argued the administration should not be allowed to forgive up to $20,000 for qualifying individuals.

On Feb. 28, the justices will hear oral argument in the cases, two of the most high-profile challenges to Biden administration policies at the Supreme Court this term. 

The challenges have put millions of borrowers — and Biden’s campaign promise — in limbo as the program remains on pause until the court’s ruling, expected by the summer.

The administration previously argued to the justices that they shouldn’t consider the merits of the two lawsuits because neither group of challengers have standing, meaning the legal capacity to sue.

The six states — Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and South Carolina — pushed back in Friday’s brief by asserting they will each suffer financially due to the plan for differing reasons.

Missouri argued the plan will harm its student loan service, three states cited impacts from how some borrowers are now consolidating their loans and four said their tax revenues will take a hit.

Meanwhile, the individual challengers argued they have standing because they were denied a procedural right to express their views through a formal comment period.

“Respondents have federal student loans that are not being forgiven under the Program but could be if the Secretary followed the proper procedures,” wrote attorneys for Myra Brown and Alexander Taylor, the two individual challengers.

If the court does reach the merits, the administration cites the 2003 Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act as Education Secretary Miguel Cardona’s authority to forgive the loans.

Both the six states and the two individuals contended that the law “does not authorize the Program” because the court’s precedents require Congress to give clearer authority for such an important decision.

“Canceling hundreds of billions of dollars in student loans—through a decree that extends to nearly all borrowers—is a breathtaking assertion of power and a matter of great economic and political significance,” the states wrote in their brief.

The law allows the secretary to modify federal financial aid programs when necessary in connection with a national emergency, and Cardona has tied the plan to the emergency the Trump administration first established for the pandemic that still remains in effect.

“While President Biden declares the pandemic over, his Secretary of Education and Department of Education cite COVID-19 to justify the Loan Cancellation Program—an unlawful attempt to eliminate $430 billion of federal student-loan debt,” the states argued.

Tags Arkansas Biden Department of Education Iowa Kansas Loan Cancellation Program Miguel Cardona Miguel Cardona Missouri Nebraska South Carolina student debt relief program student loans Supreme Court of the United States The Biden Administration United States Congress

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