Student loan forgiveness to be debated at Supreme Court

Technicalities on merits of case and interpretations of existing laws will dominate oral arguments.
Posted at 4:05 PM, Feb 24, 2023

WASHINGTON — You or your loved ones could soon have student loan debt forgiven by a policy first relayed widely to the public by President Joe Biden back in August.

However, before any forgiveness can happen, the Supreme Court has to decide whether or not the president can legally cancel debt for millions of Americans.

As a reminder, President Biden's plan calls for up to $20,000 in forgiveness for Americans making under $125,000 a year.


According to College Board, recent graduates with debt in our country usually owe around $28,400.

However, the case before the Supreme Court isn't necessarily about debt amounts or the impact on the American economy.

"It's actually a very technical conversation," according to Andrew Lieb, a constitutional attorney and legal analyst.

Lieb says the arguments set for Tuesday are actually very technical in nature and, in some cases, go back decades.

In fact, two different cases are actually set to be heard by justices.

One argument can be traced back to the September 11th attacks and the "Heroes Act" which Congress passed in 2003.

The White House says the law gives the president authority to waive student loan debt during national emergencies.

However, with the COVID-19 national emergency set to end in May, does that power still exist?

Lieb says before the justices even debate that question, they will debate the merits of the case.

For instance, in the case of Biden v. Nebraska, justices are likely to argue whether or not the case should even be happening.

That particular case is brought by six, conservative-leaning states, who want to block forgiveness over concerns it will impact tax revenues.

As for the state of Missouri — for instance — it is arguing the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority will lose money if forgiveness happens.

Lieb says the argument may be too weak for the court.

Typically, to block something you need to be a victim.

"I think the first question the justices are gonna say is, hey, you states that are suing, do you even have standing to sue," Lieb said.

"The district court actually, originally, found in this case, they said, hey, you guys aren't the right people to sue —you don't have a damage, you don't have an injury," Lieb said.

The other case, Department of Education v. Brown, is even more technical arguing that the Biden administration didn't offer the public a proper comment period before their forgiveness plan was rolled out.

On the national mall in Washington, you don't have to go far to find people who are familiar with the case.

"It's not going to fix anything," Jennifer Slater, a Montana resident, told Scripps News.

Slater says her family isn't following the technicalities of the case, but they are following it.

Slater worries that forgiving debt without fixing high tuition will do nothing.

"Having said that, I am telling my daughter to apply for that forgiveness, we aren't stupid," Slater said.