No matter what we look like or where we live, no one should face the burden of overwhelming debt in order to get an education.
After hearing from educators and other advocates across the country, in August 2022, President Biden and the U.S. Department of Education announced a bold, life-changing student debt cancellation plan that would have reached over 43 million student borrowers in America.
President Biden’s one-time debt relief program would have canceled up to $10,000 in federal student debt for most individuals, including current students, and canceled up to $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients. But legal attacks by conservative state leaders and right-wing interest groups brought the program to a halt. This high-stakes legal challenge was brought all the way up to the Supreme Court.
On Tuesday, February 28, 2023, when the case was argued, we joined advocates from across the country at the Supreme Court to make it clear that student debt cancellation is just, necessary, and legal.
What Did the Supreme Court Say?
On June 30, 2023, the Supreme Court struck down the Biden administration’s one-time student debt relief program in the case of Biden v. Nebraska. The Court’s conservative majority sided with six Republican-led states and decided that the Secretary of Education could not carry out the debt relief program under the HEROES Act.
The Court’s liberal minority disagreed strongly and criticized the majority for deciding “a contested public policy issue properly belonging to the politically accountable branches and the people they represent,” going so far as to characterize the decision as damaging, dangerous, and disturbing.
What does this decision mean for educators? Teacher Zander Epps breaks it down:
What Happens Now?
The Secretary of Education has already started a rulemaking process to provide debt relief for as many borrowers as possible under a different law. This rulemaking will be done by a committee that includes representatives of public organizations and interest groups most affected by student debt. There will be a public hearing on July 18, 2023 and a later opportunity to submit written comments.
NEA will not stop advocating for educators, students and families until they get the debt relief they deserve. As the rulemaking process proceeds, we will update our members on any new developments.
The Biden Administration also announced that a new income-driven repayment plan called “Saving on a Valuable Education” or SAVE—the most affordable repayment plan in history—will be available starting this summer. If you are already enrolled in the REPAYE Income-Driven Repayment Plan or sign up for the REPAYE plan now, you will automatically be transferred to the SAVE plan. Under SAVE, your monthly payments will drop by at least $1,000 annually and any unpaid interest that accrues above your monthly payment will be erased!
What's next for educator student debt relief? Teacher Mandi Jung shares her advice:
Public Service Loan Forgiveness is still here for educators and other public service workers.
The Supreme Court ruling did not affect the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. Through this program, public service workers can cancel the remaining balance of their federal student debt after providing 10 years of public service while making 120 monthly payments on their federal student loans.