President Joe Biden on Friday announced new measures to provide student loan relief to Americans and condemned the U.S. Supreme Court for blocking a plan to cancel hundreds of billions of dollars in debt that was popular with his voters.
Thwarted by the conservative-leaning court, Biden told reporters that his administration would pursue student loan relief through a different avenue, the Higher Education Act. The Education Department launched a regulatory “rulemaking” process that is likely to take months.
In a 6-3 decision earlier on Friday, the Supreme Court blocked Biden’s plan to cancel $430 billion in student loan debt. The ruling, which was welcomed by Republicans, threatened to dismantle part of the Democratic president’s policy agenda.
Biden said his administration would pursue a different way to achieve his goal.
“Today’s decision has closed one path. Now we’re going to start another,” Biden told reporters. “I believe the court’s decision to strike down my student debt relief program was a mistake, was wrong. I’m not going to stop fighting to deliver borrowers what they need, particularly those at the bottom end of the economic scale.”
As part of the overall plan, the Education Department finalized a program to reduce payments that borrowers with undergraduate loans have to pay monthly to 5% of discretionary income rather than 10%, which the administration said would help them save $1,000 a year.
Loan forgiveness would be offered to borrowers with balances of $12,000 or less after 10 years of payments rather than 20 years – a benefit aimed at helping community college graduates.
Progressive voters, who are part of the coalition that helped elect Biden in 2020, long have put pressure on the White House to address student loan debt; the court’s decision intensified calls for further action.
“The President has more tools to cancel student debt – and he must use them,” Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, a leading progressive voice, said on Twitter after the Supreme Court’s decision and before Biden spoke.