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BREAKING: The Supreme Court Just Killed Student Debt Relief. What Happens Next?
President Biden can still cancel your debt.
The Supreme Court just killed student debt relief. In a 6-3 decision, the court blocked Biden’s program, which would have canceled up to $20,000 per borrower, from being implemented under the HEROES Act.
More than 40 million Americans had qualified for debt forgiveness under Biden’s plan, and nearly 90% of the benefits for out-of-school borrowers would have gone to people earning less than $75,000.
These people have been stripped of relief not just by this conservative Court, but by a coalition of billionaires and corporate interests that funded this case behind the scenes. We did a whole video exposing them, and you should check it out.
But this isn’t the end of the story. The Biden administration still has a tried-and-true legal authority to cancel student debt, one that Congress has authorized and that’s already been used repeatedly—including by the Trump administration—to wipe out federal student debt.
This was the focus of our second-ever video at More Perfect Union, released back in February 2021, and we just updated the piece ahead of today’s ruling. Watch:
Here’s how it works: the Higher Education Act in 1965 gave the Secretary of Education the authority to make or back federal student loans. It also gave the Secretary broad and unrestricted power to cancel or write down that debt — to “enforce, pay, compromise, waive, or release any right, title, claim, lien, or demand, however acquired, including any equity or any right of redemption.” Secretary Betsy DeVos even used it to cancel debt for certain borrowers.
President Biden could direct current Secretary Miguel Cardona to use that power to relieve millions of people of crushing debt. (If you’re wondering — they don’t need to stop at $20,000. They’re able to cancel ALL federal student loans if they wanted to.)
Biden’s initial attempt to cancel student loan debt, which the Supreme Court just struck down, was based on much more fragile legal standing. Biden had cited the HEROES Act of 2003, which gave the Education Department the power to “waive or modify” student loans for people affected by a “national emergency.” The Biden administration said the COVID pandemic was a national emergency that justified his student debt relief program and the Supreme Court disagreed.
But the Higher Education Act doesn’t have the same limitation. President Biden can and should use it to ensure that student loan borrowers are given the debt relief that they desperately need right now.
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