- The idea of student loan forgiveness was only ever a bandage," said Robinson."We need to address the root cause of high student debt: colleges and universities that cost too much, spend too much, and deliver too little."
The United States Supreme Court released an opinion Friday on whether President Joe Biden can unilaterally forgive more than $400 billion in student loan debt for an estimated 250 million people. The high court found that such a sweeping plan must be passed through the legislative branch.
In 2022, Biden attempted to make good on a key campaign promise through the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act of 2003 (HEROES Act) which allowed the executive branch’s Secretary of Education to make changes to student loans during a state of emergency, like the coronavirus pandemic shutdowns.
“The HEROES Act allows the Secretary to ‘waive or modify’ existing statutory or regulatory provisions applicable to financial assistance programs under the Education Act, but does not allow the Secretary to rewrite that statute to the extent of canceling $430 billion of
student loan principal,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts in the majority opinion.
The 6-3 decision found that Biden’s authority only extended to limited instances or modification to loans. For instance, the agency could forgive loans for those who become public servants or are permanently disabled.
“While Congress specified in the Education Act a few narrowly delineated situations that could qualify a borrower for loan discharge, the Secretary has extended such discharge to nearly every borrower in the country. It is highly unlikely that Congress authorized such a sweeping loan cancellation program through such a subtle device as permission to ‘modify,’” Roberts wrote.
In a dissenting opinion Justices Kagan, Sotomayor, and Jackson said that the high court overstepped its authority in ruling on the case because Congress gave the executive branch authority to make “necessary” changes in an emergency, saying that student loan debt meets that requirement.
“The policy judgments, under our separation of powers, are supposed to come from Congress and the President. But they don’t when the Court refuses to respect the full scope of the delegations that Congress makes to the Executive Branch. When that happens, the Court becomes the arbiter—indeed, the maker—of national policy,” the dissent reads.
BREAKING —> President Biden’s student loan giveaway is ruled UNLAWFUL. The 87% of Americans without student loans are no longer forced to pay for the 13% who do.— Kevin McCarthy (@SpeakerMcCarthy) June 30, 2023
This builds on the Fiscal Responsibility Act’s end to the payment pause. The President must follow the law.
Response to the decision was quick as #cancelstudentdebt spiked on Twitter and groups called to rally outside the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. on Friday. Cancelling student loan debt was a cornerstone of Biden’s presidential campaign platform in the 2020 election.
Support for the decision has been equally vocal, with many calling it a win for taxpayers as debate grows over national debt and the value of higher education.
“The idea of student loan forgiveness was only ever a bandage,” said Jenna Robinson of the Martin Center for Academic Renewal.”We need to address the root cause of high student debt: colleges and universities that cost too much, spend too much, and deliver too little.”