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US Supreme Court Strikes Down Student Debt Relief

Above Photo: Mike Ferguson/AAUP.

Another Blow To Education For All.

The Supreme Court has broadly been used as a right-wing tool to eliminate rights and opportunities for large groups of people.

On June 30, the US Supreme Court struck down President Joe Biden’s student debt relief program, which had been held up in the courts for several months due to right-wing legal challenges. The six ultra-conservative justices which make up the majority of the court ruled against the program, while the three centrist justices voted to uphold it. The Court ruled that Biden had overstepped his authority when he announced a sweeping student debt relief program on August 24, 2022. The program would have zeroed out the debts of 20 million people.

Biden issued an executive action in August to forgive the debts of student loan borrowers by up to USD 20,000. This would have affected 43 million people. But conservatives did not give the program a chance, it was immediately stalled due to legal challenges and those 43 million people never saw a cent of their loans forgiven.

This latest Supreme Court decision comes on the heels of it’s elimination of race-conscious admissions, which will most likely cause Black and Brown student populations at elite universities to plummet. Only one day apart, both the decisions will strike a massive blow to educational opportunities for working class people.

This decision is also viewed broadly as undemocratic, as student loan debt relief, much like abortion rights which the Court also struck down last year, is popular in the US. On the same day as the student loan debt relief decision, the court sided with a web designer who said she had a First Amendment right to refuse service for same-sex marriages. This ruling makes the rights of LGBTQ people more vulnerable and empowers those who discriminate against them.

Adding to the consequences of this latest Court decision, Biden and Democratic congressional leaders signed away their ability to extend the current student loan debt payments pause past September 1 when they agreed to the debt ceiling deal earlier this month. No matter what, borrowers will have to resume federal student loan payments (the vast majority of student loans are federal) no matter what, and they will not see any additional relief through Biden’s program.

According to advocates and organizers in the student debt relief movement, including organizations such as the Student Loan Debt Crisis Center and the Debt Collective, Biden still has the executive authority to cancel not only a portion of borrowers’ debts, but all of them.

“After a quick reading of the Supreme Court’s language, it is clear that the Biden administration still has legal tools at his disposal to broadly cancel student debt,” tweeted the Debt Collective. “We need immediate action from the Biden administration.”

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