Federal Student Loan Relief Program: What we know

Cadence ParamoreEditor-in-Chief

On August 24th of this year, the Biden-Harris Administration announced a three-part plan for student loan forgiveness. This plan consists of a final extension of the student loan repayment pause and ensuring that the student loan system is more manageable for current and future borrowers. Additionally, it provides targeted debt relief, meaning that students would no longer be required to pay some or all of their student loans, depending on the situation of each individual. 

We found that the plan would give federal student loan borrowers up to $10,000 in debt relief, and Federal Pell Grant recipients up to $20,000 in debt relief. This came as a welcome shock to many student loan holders. However, recently this plan has come to a halt. What’s happening now?

According to the U.S. Department of Education, courts have issued orders blocking the student loan debt relief program and are no longer accepting applications. A federal judge in Texas who blocked the plan stated that it was “unconstitutional,” according to TIME Magazine, and many lawsuits have been filed. A large number of the complaints against the program feel that it is unfair for non-Pell Grant recipients to only receive $10,000 in debt relief, as well as unfair to exclude private loan borrows. “Plaintiffs want an opportunity to present their views to the Department and to provide additional comments on any proposal from the Department to forgive student loan debts,” one lawsuit from the TIME article mentions.

Others feel that Biden lacks the authority to grant widespread debt relief. However, the question then remains of who possesses the correct authority to grant widespread debt relief? “The Biden Administration justified the plan under the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students (HEROES) Act of 2003, which gives the Education Department the ability to change student financial assistance programs during a ‘national emergency,’” says TIME.  The Biden Administration says the COVID-19 pandemic is one such emergency.

Countering these arguments, many people, like Tara Grove, professor at the University of Texas School of Law, say that arguments against the relief program are rooted in this feeling of unfairness because they see other people receiving benefits that they themselves are not eligible for. Many students, within and outside of our community, have expressed feelings of frustration at being stuck in this place of uncertainty.