The status of President Joe Biden’s student debt relief program is in question following a Thursday ruling from a federal judge in Texas. As of Friday, studentaid.gov had suspended its application process for student debt relief and stated that the U.S. Department of Justice will appeal the court order.
“We believe strongly that the Biden-Harris Student Debt Relief Plan is lawful and necessary to give borrowers and working families breathing room as they recover from the pandemic and to ensure they succeed when repayment restarts,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement. “Amidst efforts to block our debt relief program, we are not standing down.”
The conservative advocacy group suing to halt student forgiveness, the Job Creators Network Foundation, argues that Biden overreached his authority by enacting an “irrational, arbitrary, and unfair” policy. U.S. District Court Judge Mark Pittman, a Trump appointee, sided with the group, stating the nation is “not ruled by an all-powerful executive with a pen and a phone.”
Some legal experts have decried the decision because the plaintiffs have failed to prove how they have been or will be harmed by the debt relief program.
“Such injury is needed to establish what courts call ‘standing,’” Harvard University law professor Laurence Tribe told CNBC. “Judge Pittman’s decision was about as wrong and weird as any federal court ruling I can recall reading. He was wrong to decide the merits without first deciding whether either of the two plaintiffs had standing.”
So far, more than 26 million borrowers have submitted applications to have up to $20,000 of federal student debt discharged, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Of those applicants, 16 million have been approved, should the courts ultimately allow the debt to be forgiven.