Student Debt Relief – Will it Ever Come to Students in Need?

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Photography Manager: Brendan Flaherty


On February 28th, 2023, the Supreme Court heard two oral arguments that objected to Joe Biden’s student debt relief plan.

There are currently two sides to the argument, the more conservative side arguing that the president had no place to authorize a plan with such a scale. And that he had no capacity or position to make this plan come to light.

They continued to argue that the plan would ultimately cost too much and wouldn’t be fair to the students who had already paid their debts. They went on to say that this is an absurd outreach from the president.

While these are legitimate worries, Biden initially made the debt relief plan with good intentions. If it goes through, it will help millions of students struggling with debt.

Many conservative parties went to the Supreme Court to challenge the plan’s introduction, asking legal questions about the ramifications. They went on to ask what exactly the project might entail for the states. 

They brought forward the “Major Questions Doctrine,” which evaluates an agency’s actions and if they are too politically or economically significant. If the agency is, then it must have the support of Congress.

For some background on this plan, President Biden announced the possibility of a student debt relief program meant to help students in need. Biden announced the project on August 24th, 2022; since then, a lot has changed to put this plan in motion.

The plan would help the students who qualified under certain circumstances. This depended on their living situation, families’ financial standing, current enrollment, etc.

It’s been more than six months since that plan was announced, and students have since been able to sign up for the relief plan. 

Other than that, no action has been taken to give the students the necessary funds to help alleviate their growing student debt.

The question is, when might the students expect this debt relief, if at all?

Since the proposal, the plan has met large amounts of pushback, causing it to go to the Supreme Court.

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Here are some stats on the matter, according to ABC News with info from The White House:

– More than 40 million students are eligible for the debt relief plan.

– The plan could offer up to $20,000 to all eligible students. This number, multiplied by the number of people qualified, could be billions of dollars in student debt relief.

– According to ABC, “26 million student borrowers have already applied.” With this statistic, it is estimated that this endeavor would cost up to $430 billion.

If the plan goes through, students will finally have a fighting chance to get out of college or whatever learning program they’re in and be relatively debt free. 

They’ll be able to join the workforce, get a house, pay for groceries, and build a life, all without the looming threat of student debt on their shoulders.

The White House conducted a study demonstrating that the cost of attending college has significantly increased over the years for both public and four-year private institutions.

And while this would be fine if the federal support could keep up in grants, they have not.

Support has rarely increased over the years, making going to school a more expensive mission. 

In 1980, the cost of attending college was cheap and was supplemented by a large number of federal loans, making it easier to go to college. 

Now, there is not enough support to help students further their education.

Jumping back to current times, the supreme court justices heard the arguments from both sides on the plan. Giving both sides a chance to explain why this plan might be problematic or helpful.

Some students have come together to protest the rejection of the plan. They believe the program is the right thing to do and must go through to prove the court cares about future generations.

Some have argued that today’s students have been dealt a bad hand because of inflation and lack of support. Virtually making college an impossible task to pay off.

The lack of ability to pay for college may also have to do with COVID-19 and how it stopped everyone from working for an extended period of time.

Some arguing for it have stated that the plan was on the table long before its announcement.

Another thing mentioned in the Supreme Court hearings is The HEROES Act. It was an act that allowed the Secretary of Education to cancel student debt during wartime.

President Biden argued that student debt should be canceled due to the pandemic not allowing people to work as their debt continued to increase.

However, conservatives argue that this is another stretch made by the president and is simply using the pandemic as a guise to cancel student debt.

Some Supreme Court Justices had gone to college for far less during their time than today’s students, paying only a fraction of what a student today would have to pay to attend school.

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Justice Amy Coney Barrett might be a potential vote in favor of the plan after posing many questions against the conservative point of view in the recent hearing.

Another Justice, Sonia Sotomayor, has spoken on the side of the students, talking about how this will be of excellent service to the many students who struggle today.

In a recent CNN article covering the matter, Justice Sotomayor said, “there’s 50 million students who are – who will benefit from this. Who today will struggle.”

Both sides have made great arguments about whether the plan should go through, and the outcome is undoubtedly up in the air. It may come down to a few votes to sway the outcome one way or another.


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