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Legal experts are expressing concern over President Joe Biden’s ongoing efforts to cancel student loans, stating that his actions may be stretching the limits of his executive authority. They believe that the administration’s pursuit of mass student debt forgiveness is more politically motivated than legally justified, warning that additional legal challenges may arise as a result. Biden’s initial attempt to cancel student debt, which would have erased the debts of 20 million borrowers and roughly $430 billion in federal student loan balances, was struck down by the Supreme Court, leading the president to pursue a different strategy.

Following the Supreme Court’s decision against his original student debt forgiveness program in June 2023, President Biden has taken a piecemeal approach to leveraging and expanding existing Department of Education loan programs in order to deliver relief to as many borrowers as possible. While the administration has become more cautious in its approach, legal experts still argue that many aspects of the student loan cancelation efforts are unlawful and not authorized by statutes passed by Congress. They emphasize the importance of Congress being the branch of government responsible for deciding highly political programs like large-scale student debt forgiveness.

To date, the Biden administration has awarded $143.6 billion in student loan forgiveness to nearly four million Americans through various Department of Education programs, out of the total $1.7 trillion in student loan debt in the country. The Department of Education’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness program has been responsible for the largest share of debt relief, with recent changes expanding its scope and eligibility criteria. In addition, the department has introduced new programs like the Saving on a Valuable Education Plan, allowing borrowers to modify their monthly payments based on their income.

Legal experts from organizations like the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute have raised concerns about the implications of the Biden administration’s student loan cancelation efforts. They warn that mass debt relief could benefit wealthy individuals and lead universities to further increase tuition prices if they believe student debts will eventually be forgiven. The experts also criticize the administration for redefining qualifications for loan forgiveness that were originally established by Congress, suggesting that the president is overstepping his legal authority by making his own rules on the matter.

Despite warnings from legal experts, President Biden has continued to pursue his student loan cancelation agenda, with recent announcements of additional debt relief for thousands of borrowers. Critics argue that the administration’s actions are largely politically motivated, aiming to appeal to voters who support student debt forgiveness. While the administration may be taking a piecemeal approach to avoid legal challenges, experts remain concerned about the long-term consequences of mass student loan relief and the impact it may have on higher education economics. The Department of Education did not respond to requests for comment on the issue.

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