President Joe Biden vowed to keep fighting to deliver relief from federal student loan debt to millions of Americans hours after his plan was rejected by the highest court in the land.
The President said in a June 30 press conference he is changing the Department of Education’s income-driven repayment program “so no one with an undergraduate loan has to pay more than 5% of their discretionary income.”
Biden is also creating an “on ramp” program that will allow federal loan borrowers to not be considered delinquent if they miss a payment from Oct. 1, 2023 to Sept. 30, 2024. The president says the Education Department won’t refer borrowers who fail to pay their student loan bills to credit agencies for those 12 months, to give borrowers time to “get back up and running.”
The U.S. Supreme Court struck down Biden’s student-loan forgiveness plan in a 6-3 ruling released earlier on June 30, saying that the Biden Administration did not have the authority to forgive federal student loan debt for more than 43 million loan holders without Congressional approval.
Biden’s One-Time Forgiveness Plan That Was Rejected
Biden’s targeted debt forgiveness plan, announced in August 2022, would have erased up to $20,000 in federal student loans for individuals making less than $125,000 or households with less than $250,000 in income. Some 26 million U.S. borrowers applied for relief before the program was halted due to legal challenges.
At least 20 million people could have been approved and seen their federal loan debt erased entirely if the program had gone through, according to the administration. The plan could have wiped out more than $400 billion in federal student debt.
In a statement released June 30 after the Supreme Court ruling, President Biden said his plan would have been “life-changing for millions of Americans and their families.” He said, “Nearly 90 percent of the relief from our plan would have gone to borrowers making less than $75,000 a year, and none of it would have gone to people making more than $125,000.”
The Supreme Court’s Ruling
However, the court majority said that President Biden exceeded his constitutional authority in the debt forgiveness program. After hearing arguments in February, the court held that the administration needed Congressional authorization to take such action. The majority rejected arguments that a 2003 law dealing with student loans, known as the HEROES Act, gave Biden the power he claimed.
“Six States sued, arguing that the HEROES Act does not authorize the loan cancellation plan. We agree,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court.
Interest on all federal student loan debt, regardless of income, is set to resume accruing starting on Sept. 1, 2023, and payments will be due starting in October, per the debt ceiling bill.
Other Student Loan Relief Plans Draw Focus
In addition to the “on ramp” plan, Biden said he will strengthen a program that reduces federal loan holders’ debt based on their income. It is called the SAVE plan and is part of his effort to make student loan debt more manageable, especially for low-income borrowers.
Under SAVE, borrowers who are single and make less than $32,800 a year won’t have to make any payments at all. (If you are a family of four and make less than $67,500 annually, you also won’t have to make payments.)
For years, people who struggled to pay their federal student loans could enroll in the government’s Income-Driven Repayment Plans . Such a plan set your monthly federal student loan payment at an amount that was intended to be affordable based on your income and family size. It has taken into account different expenses in your budget.
The four existing income-based plans are: Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE), Pay As You Earn (PAYE), Income-Based Repayment (IBR), and Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR). The SAVE plan replaces the REPAYE program.
Supreme Court Ruling Draws Strong Response
Supporters of Biden’s federal debt forgiveness plan criticized the Supreme Court, saying student debt has become a national crisis. More than 45 million people collectively owe $1.6 trillion, according to U.S. government data.
The average federal student loan debt balance is $37,338, while the total average balance (including private student loan debt) may be as high as $40,114, according to educationdata.org.
Some called for President Biden to continue his push to slash federal student loan debt.
“I see it as an unfortunate reality that in a country where we bail out Fortune 100 companies, where we bail out banks that have not been good actors, that this Supreme Court would allow that to happen, and yet,” says Derrick Johnson, the NAACP’s president and CEO, the court would choose to leave millions of borrowers “stuck in a vicious cycle of debt.”
President Joe Biden vowed to continue trying to provide federal student loan debt relief after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down his debt-forgiveness plan, saying the president did not have the authority to take such action.
One step his Department of Education has already taken to help financially strapped borrowers: it is instituting an “on-ramp” to repayment so that late payments will not be considered delinquent during the 12-month period from Oct. 1, 2023 to Sept. 30, 2024. The DOE will also offer a new SAVE program that lowers the percentage of income that repayment amounts will be based on.
SoFi’s Student Loan Help Center may be able to help
Can I get my federal student loan debt canceled through the President’s plan?
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against President Joe Biden’s debt forgiveness program for those whose household income falls below a certain cutoff. That debt cancellation plan, which received more than 25 million applications in 2022, is now blocked.
Is the pause in paying my federal student loan coming to an end soon?
Yes. Due to the debt ceiling bill recently passed by Congress, the pause in repaying federal student loans is ending, regardless of the Supreme Court decision. Interest on federal student loans will resume accruing on Sept. 1, 2023, and payments will be due starting in October. According to Federal Student Aid (FSA) with the Department of Education, “Once the payment pause ends, you’ll receive your billing statement or other notice at least 21 days before your payment is due. This notice will include your payment amount and due date.”
I don’t know who my federal loan servicer is — and what does the servicer do?’
A loan servicer is a company that Federal Student Aid (FSA) assigns to handle the billing and other services on your federal student loan on its behalf. A loan servicer can work with you on repayment options (such as income-driven repayment plans and loan consolidation ) and assist you with other tasks related to your federal student loans.
If you’re not sure who your loan servicer is, visit your account dashboard and scroll down to the “My Loan Servicers” section, or call the Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC) at 1-800-433-3243.
Photo credit: iStock/Perry Spring
Student Loan Refinancing
If you are a federal student loan borrower you should take time now to prepare for your payments to restart, including the opportunity to refinance your student loan debt at a lower APR or to extend your term to achieve a lower monthly payment. (You may pay more interest over the life of the loan if you refinance with an extended term.) Please note that once you refinance federal student loans, you will no longer be eligible for current or future flexible payment options available to federal loan borrowers, including but not limited to income-based repayment plans, such as the SAVE Plan, or extended repayment plans.
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