Education Law

Barrett denies emergency request to halt student-loan forgiveness program; federal judge tosses different suit

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Court challenges to President Joe Biden’s student-debt relief program encountered two roadblocks Thursday.

In the first, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett denied an emergency request to block Biden’s program in a lawsuit filed by the Wisconsin-based Brown County Taxpayers Association. Barrett, who handles emergency requests from Wisconsin, acted without referring the matter to the full Supreme Court.

SCOTUSblog, the New York Times, Courthouse News Service, the Washington Post and are among the publications with coverage.

The taxpayers group claims that the program will lead to “a gargantuan increase in the national debt accomplished by a complete disregard for limitations on the constitutional spending authority.”

A federal judge has tossed the suit after finding that the taxpayers group didn’t have standing.

In the second case, U.S. District Judge Henry E. Autrey of the Eastern District of Missouri dismissed a challenge filed by six Republican-led states. Autrey also cited a lack of standing.

Under the debt-relief program, borrowers under certain income levels are eligible for loan forgiveness of $20,000 on college Pell Grants and $10,000 for other student debt if their loans are held by the U.S. Department of Education. Borrowers aren’t eligible unless their income in either 2020 or 2021 was less than $125,000 per year as an individual or less than $250,000 per year per household.

Changes are also planned to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which offers loan forgiveness for those who make monthly loan payments for 10 years while working full time in qualifying public service jobs. The proposal would allow more payments to qualify for the program, including partial, lump sum and late payments, and it would allow certain kinds of deferments and forbearances to count toward the program.

The government is claiming authority to implement its program under the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act, or the HEROES Act. The 2003 law allows waiver of student-aid program rules in times of war or national emergency. The secretary of education has concluded that the government can act because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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