On February 28, 2022, the United States Supreme Court heard arguments on the legality of $430 billion in student Loan Forgiveness for 40 million borrowers. The of President Joe Biden’s policy on student Loan Forgiveness, which aimed to ease financial burdens on debt-saddled borrowers, has faced scrutiny by the court under the so-called major questions doctrine, a muscular judicial approach used by the conservative justices to invalidate major Biden policies deemed lacking clear congressional authorization.

Legal Battle Over Student Loan Forgiveness
Legal Battle Over Student Loan Forgiveness

Supporters of student loan debt relief rallied in front of the Supreme Court in Washington while the nine justices heard arguments in appeals by Biden’s administration of two lower court rulings blocking the policy that he unveiled last August in legal challenges by six conservative-leaning states and two individual student loan borrowers opposed to the plan’s eligibility requirements.

The plan was intended to forgive up to $10,000 in federal student debt for Americans making under $125,000 who obtained loans to pay for college and other post-secondary education and $20,000 for recipients of Pell grants to students from lower-income families. The U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, arguing for Biden’s administration, sparred with conservative justices including John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh over the policy’s legal underpinning and fairness. The court has a 6-3 conservative majority.

Court Proceedings on Student Loan Forgiveness Program

Chief Justice Roberts questioned whether the scale of the relief was a mere modification of an existing Student Loan Forgiveness program, as allowed under the law the administration cited as authorizing it. “We’re talking about half a trillion dollars and 43 million Americans. How does that fit under the normal understanding of ‘modify’?” Roberts asked.

Alito challenged Prelogar’s assertion that Biden’s plan does not fit under the major questions paradigm, wondering whether members of Congress would regard, even colloquially, “what the government proposes to do with student loans as a major question or something other than a major question.”

Prelogar argued that the plan fulfilled Biden’s 2020 campaign promise to cancel a portion of $1.6 trillion in federal student loan debt. She sought to cast it as “the administration of a benefits program” rather than an assertion of regulatory power not authorized by Congress. A 2003 federal law called the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act, or HEROES Act, authorizes the U.S. education secretary to “waive or modify” student financial assistance during war or national emergencies.

Many borrowers experienced financial strain during the COVID-19 pandemic, a declared public health emergency. Beginning in 2020, the administrations of President Donald Trump, a Republican, and Biden, a Democrat, paused student loan payments and halted interest from accruing, relying upon the HEROES Act. However, the policy that Biden unveiled last August was more expansive, and its legality is now being questioned.

The Supreme court questioned whether the policy had clear congressional authorization, and Prelogar tried to argue that it was an exercise of existing congressional authority. Roberts and other conservative justices challenged this notion, arguing that the policy went beyond the scope of congressional authorization. The court is expected to make a decision in the coming months.

The fate of Biden’s student debt relief policy that fulfilled a campaign promise hangs in the balance as the United States Supreme Court conservatives question its legality. The court’s decision will have significant consequences for millions of student loan borrowers and the Biden administration. If the court strikes down the Student Loan Forgiveness policy, it will be a significant blow to the Biden administration, as it has been one of the president’s signature policy initiatives.

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The legal battle over the student loan forgiveness program is the latest in a series of conflicts between the Biden administration and conservative judges over the scope of executive authority. Biden has sought to use executive power to advance his agenda on climate change, immigration, and other issues, while conservative judges have sought to limit the use of executive power, arguing that it infringes on the powers of Congress and violates the separation of powers.

The student loan forgiveness program is just one example of this conflict, as Republicans argue that the Biden administration does not have the authority to unilaterally forgive student loan debt without approval from Congress. The outcome of this legal battle could have significant implications for the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches of government.

Dramatic version of Court Proceedings on student loan forgiveness program 28.02.2023

(This is not actual Proceedings but an Imaginary version based on News reports created by Chat-GPT)

(Download Actual Court Proceedings) (Listen Full court proceedings)

Oral Argument – Audio Dept. of Education v. Brown Docket Number: 22-535 Date Argued: 02/28/23

SC: Good morning, Counselors. Let’s begin with the case of Student Loan Forgiveness. Who represents the Petitioner, Biden Government?

Biden Govt/Attorney: Good morning, Your Honor. I am representing the Petitioner.

SC: And who represents the Respondent, Republican?

Republican: Good morning, Your Honor. I am representing the Respondent.

SC: Alright. Petitioner, can you explain your case for student debt waiver/forgiveness?

Biden Govt/Attorney: Yes, Your Honor. We are requesting the waiver of $10,000 in student debt for each borrower. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused economic hardship for millions of Americans, including those with student loan debt. This measure will provide immediate relief to those who are struggling to make ends meet.

SC: What is the basis for this request?

Biden Govt/Attorney: Your Honor, the Higher Education Act of 1965 grants the Secretary of Education the authority to modify, compromise, waive, or release any right, title, claim, lien, or demand, however acquired, including any equity or any right of redemption.

SC: What is the response from the Respondent?

Republican: Your Honor, we believe that student loan forgiveness is not the right solution. This is a bailout for those who chose to take out loans, and it is not fair to those who have already paid off their debts or did not take out loans in the first place. Furthermore, this measure does not address the root causes of the student debt crisis.

SC: What is the Respondent’s proposed solution then?

Republican: Your Honor, we propose addressing the root causes of the student debt crisis, such as the rising cost of tuition and lack of financial literacy among borrowers. We also propose reforms to the federal student loan program to ensure that borrowers are not taking on excessive debt.

SC: Petitioner, what is your response to the Respondent’s arguments?

Biden Govt/Attorney: Your Honor, while we agree that addressing the root causes of the student debt crisis is important, we believe that this measure will provide immediate relief to those who are struggling the most. Additionally, we are working on long-term solutions to address the root causes of the problem.

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SC: Thank you for your arguments. I have reviewed the facts and arguments presented by both parties, as well as relevant legal precedents. I now have a few questions for each of you.

To the petitioner: How does the Biden administration justify the constitutionality of student debt forgiveness?

Petitioner: Your honor, the administration believes that student debt forgiveness falls within the scope of the President’s authority to manage the federal budget and to provide economic relief to Americans who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, the Higher Education Act of 1965 provides the Secretary of Education with broad authority to “compromise, waive, or release any right, title, claim, lien, or demand” arising from federal student loans. We believe that this authority extends to the forgiveness of student debt.

SC: And what would be the economic impact of forgiving student debt?

Petitioner: The forgiveness of student debt would provide significant economic relief to millions of Americans who are struggling to pay back their loans. This would result in increased consumer spending, job creation, and economic growth. It would also reduce the burden on social safety net programs, such as Medicaid and food stamps, which currently support many people who are unable to afford their student loan payments.

SC: To the respondent: What is your objection to student debt forgiveness?

Respondent: Your honor, we believe that forgiving student debt would be unfair to the millions of Americans who have already paid off their loans or who have chosen not to go to college. It would also set a dangerous precedent, encouraging irresponsible borrowing and undermining the value of a college education. Furthermore, we believe that student debt forgiveness is not within the President’s authority and would require congressional approval.

SC: Is there any legal precedent for the forgiveness of federal student loans?

Respondent: Your honor, while there have been cases of student loan forgiveness in the past, such as in cases of fraud or closure of for-profit colleges, these were done on a case-by-case basis and not as a blanket forgiveness. There is no legal precedent for the mass forgiveness of federal student loans.

SC: Thank you both for your answers. I will take them into consideration as I make my decision in this case. Thank you, counselors. I will take your arguments into consideration and issue a ruling shortly.(expected Latest by June-2023)

The issue of Student Loan Forgiveness has been a controversial one, with many different opinions on the matter. On one hand, supporters argue that forgiving student debt would provide much-needed relief to millions of Americans burdened by high levels of debt, enabling them to invest in their futures and contribute more to the economy. On the other hand, opponents argue that such a move would be unfair to those who have already paid off their loans or who chose not to go to college in order to avoid taking on debt.

There is also disagreement over whether the President has the authority to forgive student debt without congressional approval. Supporters of Student Loan Forgiveness argue that the Higher Education Act of 1965 grants the Secretary of Education broad authority to “modify, compromise, waive, or release” federal student loans. Opponents argue that the Constitution grants Congress, not the President, the power to appropriate funds and make laws.

Despite these disagreements, the issue of Student Loan Forgiveness remains a hotly debated topic in the United States, and it will be interesting to see how the situation develops in the coming months and years.

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