Biden unveils new smaller student debt relief programs after initial expansive plan was rejected by Supreme Court

 January 20, 2024

In an effort to fulfill a bold campaign promise, President Joe Biden announced in 2022 a plan that would have "forgiven" upwards of $400 billion in student loan debt for more than 40 million borrowers, but that plan was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2023 as an overreach of executive authority.

Now, in continued defiance of the high court, Biden has rolled out yet another, albeit much more limited, student loan debt forgiveness program, according to PBS NewsHour.

This new plan, which would purportedly erase around $5 billion in debt for roughly 74,000 borrowers, was revealed just days after Biden announced the earlier than expected imminent rollout of another separate student debt cancelation program that would provide relief for potentially millions of borrowers.

Debt cancelation for borrowers who worked in "public service"

In a statement on Friday, President Biden said, "Of the 74,000 borrowers approved for relief today, nearly 44,000 of them are teachers, nurses, firefighters and other individuals who earned forgiveness after 10 years of public service, and close to 30,000 of them are people who have been in repayment for at least 20 years but never got the relief they earned through income-driven repayment plans."

"My Administration is able to deliver relief to these borrowers -- and millions more -- because of fixes we made to broken student loan programs that were preventing borrowers from getting relief they were entitled to under the law," he continued.

The president went on to mention some of the other limited forms of debt forgiveness programs his administration has put into action over the past couple of years -- which has purportedly benefited more than 3.7 million borrowers thus far -- and said, "And, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision on our student debt relief plan, we are continuing to pursue an alternative path to deliver student debt relief to as many borrowers as possible as quickly as possible."

"From Day One of my Administration, I vowed to improve the student loan system so that a higher education provides Americans with opportunity and prosperity -- not unmanageable burdens of student loan debt," he added. "I won’t back down from using every tool at our disposal to get student loan borrowers the relief they need to reach their dreams."

Accelerated rollout of new provision in Biden's SAVE program

Just one week prior to that statement, President Biden announced the accelerated rollout "six months ahead of schedule" of a new provision of a broader student debt relief program known as the SAVE plan.

Beginning in February rather than July, as was originally planned, "borrowers enrolled in SAVE who took out less than $12,000 in loans and have been in repayment for 10 years will get their remaining student debt cancelled immediately."

"This action will particularly help community college borrowers, low-income borrowers, and those struggling to repay their loans," Biden said. "And, it’s part of our ongoing efforts to act as quickly as possible to give more borrowers breathing room so they can get out from under the burden of student loan debt, move on with their lives and pursue their dreams."

The president added, "I encourage all borrowers who may be eligible for early debt cancellation to sign up for the SAVE plan at Already, 6.9 million borrowers are enrolled in the plan, and 3.9 million have a $0 monthly payment."

Supreme Court struck down Biden's initial expansive student debt relief plan

These admittedly piecemeal efforts to cancel student loan debt for tens and hundreds of thousands of borrowers follow the June 2023 decision by the Supreme Court that the Biden administration had overstepped its authority with the president's initial expansive debt forgiveness plan, according to SCOTUSblog.

That original plan, which claimed authority from a post-9/11 law intended to provide limited emergency debt relief for first responders and military service members, would have provided total or partial debt cancelations worth more than $400 billion for more than 43 million borrowers.

However, in a 6-3 ruling, it was determined that the cited law only allowed for "modest adjustments and additions to existing provisions" and did not grant Biden's Education secretary the authority to essentially create a "a novel and fundamentally different loan forgiveness program."

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