After President Joe Biden implemented his plan for student loan debt cancelation, conservatives came out in full force to block it through federal lawsuits. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court began hearing from two fronts: one by six states, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and South Carolina, all of which are helmed by Republicans; “and the other…backed by the Job Creators Network Foundation, a conservative advocacy organization.”
The student loan debt crisis is the greatest civil rights issue of our generation. Per The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, “[t]he $1.7 trillion student loan crisis is crushing individuals, families, and our economy, and the weight of this burden is disproportionately borne by women and Black and Latino borrowers.”
What’s worse, is that this disparity isn’t an accident—it was made by design. Just when people of color were finally able to access higher education, “[p]olicymakers intentionally shifted away from publicly funding our higher education system to a primarily debt-financed system.”
This decision completely disregarded “the rising cost of college for students and families, persistent racial wealth and income disparities, ongoing discrimination in the labor and credit markets, and many other societal and policy failures,” and have left a generation of Black “borrowers on the brink of financial devastation.”
These ramifications are the equivalent of peak irony, in that efforts to receive a higher education to obtain economic security have backfired, and the majority of borrowers are now financially insecure, largely in part to their student loans.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, former President Trump invoked a law passed by Congress after the 9/11 attacks in 2003, “to ensure that federal student loan borrowers would not be economically hammered in a national emergency.” President Biden also elected to continue the pause on student loan repayments, and tried to fulfill one of his campaign promises on wiping out student loan debt, “with a plan to provide up to $20,000 in debt relief for borrowers with limited earnings.”
This cancelation substantially impacts Black borrowers: a quarter would have their debt entirely cleared under his plan. And if the Court rules against borrowers this session, it could make policies for larger cancelation even harder— which advocates say is needed to actually minimize the racial wealth gap.
After Biden’s plan was enacted and 26 million borrowers signed up, many in the GOP were enraged, and legal challenges halted the program before it even really started.
It is worth noting that the Job Creators Network is a donor network composed of right-wing extremists. In 2020, $125,000 of their PPP loans were forgiven, a point which Justice Jackson honed in on, stating during the oral arguments, “I’m wondering whether or not the same fairness issue would arise with respect to any federal benefit programs.”
Given the current makeup of the court with only 3 liberal justices to the 6 conservatives, many “[e]xperts predicted the Supreme Court justices would rule against President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan, but some have changed their minds after oral arguments,” CNBC reports.
According to CNN, “If the conservatives do ultimately rule in favor of the policy’s challengers, the hearing made clear they will have to grapple with the legal questions around why states and individual borrowers should be allowed to sue over the program – questions that emerged as a flash point during the arguments.”
At stake is when federal student loan payments will resume. While we await the court’s decision, student loans will continue to remain paused. But this pause is short-lived. The payment pause will end upon the resolution of the case or if it is not resolved by June 30, 60 days thereafter.