In a dissent, Justice Elena Kagan wrote the court overstepped the court’s actual role, saying it “acts as though it is an arbiter of political and policy disputes, rather than of cases and controversies.”
The decision was swiftly condemned by groups advocating for student debt relief. The National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union, said the outcome “undermines the future of countless Americans burdened by crushing student loan debt.”
Conservative groups said Biden’s plan would hurt future students. “(H)ad this move forward, it really would have created just tremendous inflationary pressure on the price of higher ed,” said Lindsey Burke, director of Heritage Foundation’s Center for Education Policy.
U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., said the ruling is “devastating news” for borrowers and added the lawmakers should work on efforts that lower college costs. U.S. Rep. Mike Collins, R-Jackson, said the Biden administration didn’t “have the authority to force taxpayers without loans to subsidize the debt of others.”
Biden unveiled his plan in August after promising during his 2020 presidential campaign to tackle federal student loan forgiveness.
He proposed eliminating $10,000 in debt for those with an annual income of less than $125,000. Pell Grant recipients would get up to $20,000 in relief. His proposal included help for those with Parent PLUS loans held by the U.S. Department of Education.
The White House previously said just over 1 million Georgians applied or were automatically eligible for student loan relief before the courts paused applications last fall amid legal challenges. Of those, 642,000 applications were fully approved and sent to loan servicers for discharge.
Biden announced a plan Friday to reduce monthly payments for low-income borrowers. He also said borrowers who miss a payment will not have their loans referred to collection agencies. Additionally, Biden said the federal government will forgive loan balances after 10 years of payments, instead of 20 years, for borrowers with original loan balances of $12,000 or less.
“The hypocrisy of Republican elected officials is stunning,” he said in a statement after the court’s decision. “They had no problem with billions in pandemic-related loans to businesses — including hundreds of thousands and in some cases millions of dollars for their own businesses. And those loans were forgiven. But when it came to providing relief to millions of hard-working Americans, they did everything in their power to stop it.”
Federal student loan payments are slated to resume in October after a more than three-year pause aimed at lessening borrowers’ financial strain during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ending the payment pause was part of the recent deal struck between Republicans and Democrats over the nation’s debt ceiling.
After Biden announced his student loan forgiveness proposal, it promptly faced legal challenges, including from six Republican-led states that argued the administration lacked the authority to enact the sweeping debt relief program.
In another case out of Texas, two student loan borrowers who didn’t qualify for relief also sued. The Supreme Court unanimously decided they lacked legal standing.
Nationally, the administration estimated more than 40 million federal student loan borrowers would receive help. The plan would cost an estimated $400 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
In Georgia, more than 1.6 million people have student loans, and the average debt is $41,639, according to the Education Data Initiative.
In June, Republicans introduced their own student loan proposals, including one that House Republicans touted as a “fiscally responsible” solution that provides “targeted” relief to borrowers.
Friday’s ruling comes a day after the court ruled that colleges cannot consider race in admissions.
Staff writers Tia Mitchell, Toni Odejimi and information from The Washington Post contributed to this article.
By the numbers: Student loans in Georgia
1,012,000 — Number of Georgians who applied or were automatically eligible for the Biden administration’s student loan forgiveness plan.
642,000 — Number of those Georgia applications that were approved and sent to loan servicers for discharge before legal challenges halted the program.
1,647,500 — Number of student borrowers in Georgia.
15.4% — Percent of Georgia residents with student loan debt.
$41,639 — Average student loan debt in Georgia, which is third nationally, behind Washington, D.C., and Maryland.
Sources: The White House and Education Data Initiative.