WASHINGTON (TND) — A line of mostly debt-carrying students and graduates gathered around the Supreme Court Tuesday for a landmark case deciding the fate of President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan.
It would provide up to $20,000 of relief for around 40 million Americans. The demonstrators complained of crippling fees that can burden them for most of their lives.
“The justices also have undergraduate degrees. They have law school degrees and so they know the burden that thousands of dollars can be," said Ibrahim Mudassar, a student at Rutgers University.
Biden based his power on the decades-old, 9/11 HEROES Act to pause certain federal loan payments due to national emergencies — in this case, the COVID pandemic. But six Republican-led states and two Texas borrowers argue the administration does not have the authority and that Congress controls the nation's purse strings, not the president.
With a 6 to 3 conservative majority, the court is likely to be skeptical of the administration’s reach which could come with a price tag of around $400 billion over the next 30 years.
“I think most casual observers would say if you’re going to give up that much amount of money, if you’re going to affect the obligations of that many Americans on the subject that’s of great controversy, they would think that’s something for Congress to act on," Chief Justice Roberts questioned during oral arguments.
But the court is also considering arguments that erasing debt could have a positive economic benefit elsewhere.
“That extra money will result in increased consumer spending and decreased housing insecurity, less defaults on other loans that those borrowers may have," Justice Sonia Sotomayor cited one argument.
The justices also could be swayed by complaints from people like Ed Evans outside of Baltimore, who was interviewed for Sinclair's Full Measure. Evans was one of 70 million Americans who didn’t get a degree and spent their money elsewhere. In his case, it was in his auto shop.
“I feel slighted. What am I going to get, you know? My tax dollars are going to pay for someone else and I didn’t get anything,” Evans said.
Meanwhile, some wonder how, if at all, erasing debt would help curb the ever-increasing cost of higher education.
The national emergency declaration for COVID is set to end on May 11. The court is likely to have a decision sometime around June.