Last year, President Joe Biden used his authority—as defined by the HEROES Act of 2003—to cancel up to $20,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower. The executive action was taken in response to the lingering health and economic impacts caused by Covid-19, and would help families and borrowers recover while closing racial disparities that widened during the pandemic. Right now, Americans owe nearly $1.8 trillion in student loan debt. On February 28, the Supreme Court will begin hearing oral arguments for two cases challenging this plan, Biden v. Nebraska and Department of Education v. Brown.
Let’s be clear: President Biden’s relief plan is legal and supported by 22 state attorneys general and dozens of legal experts. Research shows that student debt harms working- and middle-class families, prevents homeownership, delays family formation, and adds additional stress to families struggling to shoulder the impacts of the pandemic and inflation. Freeing Americans from the shackles of debt would put hundreds of dollars back into the pockets of families, grow the GDP by billions of dollars, and even add jobs to the economy.
But despite the obvious benefits of President Biden’s plan, these two Supreme Court cases—one led by an organization tied to the billionaire founder of Home Depot and the other by partisan state officials—are a serious threat to student debt relief. If the challenges are successful and the court blocks the president’s student debt cancellation plan, the crisis will continue to burden millions of Americans.
Earlier this month, hundreds of experts, policy-makers, and organizations submitted briefs to the court in support of the president’s legal authority to cancel student debt. They include legal scholars from the University of California and Ohio State systems as well as the American Federation of Teachers and the NAACP. One notable supporter is Representative George Miller, a former chair of the US House Committee on Education and Labor, who authored the HEROES Act of 2003.
On the day that SCOTUS begins hearing oral arguments, students, borrowers, advocates, labor leaders, policy-makers, and allies of all backgrounds will voice their support for President Biden’s plan at the People’s Rally for Student Debt Cancellation. Borrowers will share their personal stories of how student debt has affected their lives and call on the Supreme Court to uphold the president’s promise. Public pressure could have a meaningful impact on the court’s decision-making process, and the People’s Rally for Student Debt Cancellation has the potential to make a huge impact on the upcoming court case and help advance the cause of debt cancellation for millions of Americans.
But it is ultimately up to the Supreme Court to decide whether President Biden’s student debt cancellation plan can proceed, and there are reasons to be concerned that activist justices will ignore the law. This is a pivotal moment. The movement to support debt cancellation is stronger than ever and facing its biggest challenge yet. If supporters are successful in defending the President’s student debt cancellation plan, and the Court rules in their favor, they will secure immediate relief for those struggling with this debt, stimulate economic growth, and allow individuals to pursue their dreams and aspirations without this ongoing burden hanging over their heads.