Student loan relief plan faces backlash in the Supreme Court

Caroline Hendrix, Opinions Editor

A key facet of Biden’s campaign was a promise to provide student loan relief. As Biden tries to make good on his commitments, his $400 billion student loan forgiveness plan has been the cause of much tension between political parties in recent weeks. This plan has the potential to alleviate up to $20,000 in student loans for around 40 million borrowers, reports Forbes. But its challengers consider whether Biden is abusing his power by trying to implement his plan without receiving approval from Congress. Will the current student loan cases result in economic relief for millions of borrowers? What does the plan and its opposition say about our current education and court systems?

Borrower Lindsay Clausen feels like a rug has been swept from under her feet, reports CNN, as she was one of the 26 million people who applied for Biden’s relief program before it was blocked in November 2022. 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that workers in a 2021 survey with higher degrees had higher earnings and lower unemployment rates than workers without a degree. Earning a degree is not the only marker for success, but as these statistics show, it is one key factor. It is not equitable for some to be barred from education on the sole basis of its cost, especially considering what else is at stake. 

Yes, relief is integral for those who have already borrowed money for school, but it is not attacking the problem at its root. The true problem is that students have to pay an exorbitant price for their education and their future. It is integral that policymakers analyze other nations who have been able to implement more affordable paths to a degree. I am not suggesting that there is some magical solution that will make undergraduate or graduate programs free without impacting other facets of our economic lives, but as these current student loan cases continue and potentially come to an end, we should not let the topic of the cost of education be forgotten. 

CNN anticipates a decision by the Supreme Court by June or July. At the heart of these cases are conservative justices who stand in opposition, partly because they believe the president is abusing his executive power by trying to circumnavigate congressional procedures in the enactment of this plan. As we wait, we should consider whether something is only an abuse of power if the abuse isn’t in accordance with one’s political alignment. Or, do we have a civic responsibility to ensure a check on the balance of powers, regardless of whether the outcome will serve us? 

The Washington Post explains the same challengers did not take action when Republican presidents developed and executed programs in the past without a congressional rubber stamp. While challengers are correct to consider how this case might jeopardize the balance of powers that our government structure is built upon, it is important to consider the judicial system’s intentions and watch to see whether their stance remains as strong when right-leaning initiatives attempt to avoid Congress under future administrations. The Washington Post notes how opposition from Republican politicians throughout this fight could create space for Democrats to call out an abuse of power, if it should occur in future Republican administrations. 

According to Forbes, there is no backup plan from the Biden administration if this plan is not implemented. As these cases progress, the administration should begin to consider other options. Is there a way to aid in loan forgiveness that includes going through Congress? Regardless of the outcome of this plan, there will still be people who are in need of relief from the economic burdens of education. And without plans like this, or changes to costs of education in the U.S., these burdens aren’t lessening in the near future. The Education Department is aware of this fact, and has remained in constant communication with millions of borrowers, acknowledging that burdens have been exacerbated by the recent economic downturn. 

Even if you have paid off your student loans, or you did not have to borrow money for a higher education, you should still care about the Supreme Court’s decision. In a nation where education is so closely linked to opportunity, student loan relief could transform the lives of those who have been limited by their debt. It may also encourage younger generations of students to see a space for themselves in higher degree programs that they felt was financially out of reach before. 

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