The Biden administration’s student-loan forgiveness program is now before the Supreme Court, with a ruling expected from the high court sometime this year. Last month, the U.S. Department of Education sent out millions of notices as a reminder that the student loan repayment pause has been extended, which means that borrowers will not have to make payments for at least another six months.
The move follows months of confusion for students and recent graduates, many of whom have applied for the student debt relief program announced by the White House in August 2022. According to the plan, Pell Grant recipients with annual income during the pandemic of less than $125,000 (for individuals) or less than $250,000 (for married couples or heads of households) would be eligible for up to $20,000 in debt cancellation.
Statistics from the nonprofit College Board says higher education costs have nearly tripled, even with inflation allowance. The average student now holds almost $25,000 in debt after graduation, according to the Education Department. The burden of student debt is too heavy to carry throughout school for grant recipients and non-recipients alike.
“I had to put college on hold,” Webster student Nathan Dalton said. “I had scholarships and stuff for my first few semesters, but then I had to start working and had less time, so I got worse grades. I applied for forgiveness, but I’m not counting on it.”
Dalton is one of the more than 26 million people who have applied to the Education Department for debt relief; with 16 million of those borrowers already approved.
However, a rash of legal pushback from several Republican-led states, including Missouri, resulted in a federal appeals court blocking the initiative, setting the stage for the Supreme Court ruling, which is expected to hear arguments between the administration and coalition of states that sued on Feb. 28.
Until then, there’s a certain cloudiness to what happens next, as students struggle to keep up with the ever-evolving scenario. Some have decided to watch the progress from afar.
“I have it set up to where I get email updates about it,” Webster student Mike Kesselheim said. “I would recommend just filling out the application; nothing’s clear.”
The muddled timeline is also causing some students to delay their applications, while others say the uncertainty has led them to relinquish efforts.
“If they’re taking it all back, I’m not going to do all that work if it doesn’t pay off,” Webster student Scooter Armstrong said.
With the future of the student debt relief program at the mercy of the courts, the financial stability of the graduating generation may be at stake. The Biden administration says it is working to come up with other ways to offer relief, including a student loan repayment plan, introduced just this month. However, a timeline for possible implementation remains unclear.