Supreme Court Strikes Down Biden Admin’s $430B Student Loan Forgiveness Scheme
A view of the front portico of the United States Supreme Court building in Washington, DC.
Image via Getty Images.

In a stinging defeat for the Biden administration, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Friday that the COVID-era HEROES Act did not give the White House authority to unilaterally forgive federally subsidized student loans.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the 6-3 majority, saying, “The Secretary asserts that the HEROES Act grants him the authority to cancel $430 billion of student loan principal. It does not. 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.”

The decision was made along ideological lines, as Chief Justice Roberts was joined in the majority by Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Amy Coney Barret, Brett Kavanaugh, and Clarence Thomas.

The first case was decided unanimously, with all justices ruling in Department of Education v. Brown that the two petitioners who were denied debt relief under the program did not have standing to sue the Department of Education. The second case, Biden v. Nebraska, upheld the right of the several GOP states involved in the lawsuit to sue the Biden administration, clearing the hurdle necessary to present their argument before the court. Roberts bluntly contended in the majority opinion, “Six States sued, arguing that the HEROES Act does not authorize the loan cancellation plan. We agree.”

Student loan forgiveness has been on many Democrats’ wishlists for years, as 43 million Americans struggle to pay an average of $28,950 in student loans that can take decades to pay off, according to Forbes. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) rose to popularity in both the 2016 and 2020 Democratic presidential primaries offering to wipe out all $1.6 trillion in student loan debt without any eligibility requirements, as well as making public colleges and universities free on a national level.

In a dissent joined by joined by Justices Ketanji Brown Jackson and Sonia Sotomayor, Justice Elena Kagan wrote,”[T]his 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.'” Kagan claims that not only does the Biden administration have the right to cancel student debt en-masse, but that the six GOP states did not even have standing to challenge the plan in the first place, “They [the six states] oppose the Secretary’s loan cancellation plan on varied policy and legal grounds. But as everyone agrees, those objections are just general grievances; they do not show the particularized injury needed to bring suit.”

The Biden administration’s plan sought to eliminate $400 billion of student loans for roughly 40 million qualifying Americans making less than $125,000 or couples making less than $250,000. The Department of Education’s online form granted approved applicants up to $10,000 in loan forgiveness, and up to $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients, according to The Hill. Approximately 26 million Americans filled out the form and 16 million were accepted prior to the plan’s termination by the Supreme Court and before the debt would be forgiven.

The administration argued in court that the plan was authorized by the HEROES COVID-relief Act passed in 2021 as well as a statute in the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act of 2003, which supposedly allows the Department of Education to waive and/or modify student loans in response to a national emergency, which in this case was the COVID pandemic.

In response to this claim, Roberts remarked that the Biden administration had modified the aforementioned statute “in the same sense that the French Revolution ‘modified’ the status of the French nobility — it has abolished them and supplanted them with a new regime entirely.” Roberts ruled that the statute had been stretched far too much and that a mass-cancellation program of this scale required specific congressional approval to move forward, per The Washington Post.


This is a breaking news story and will be updated.

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