Challenges to Student Loan Cancellation Reach Supreme Court

As of September, the Education Department has deposited $10,000 into Jason Doresky’s bank account. Since the government advised borrowers in March 2020 that they may temporarily cease paying due to the pandemic situation, he had been making voluntary payments on his federal college student loans.

Mr. Doresky, 31, attended the University of Kansas and graduated in 2015; nevertheless, he has not yet put any of the student loan money he received. He’s holding out hope that he won’t have to send it back.

President Joe Biden’s proposal to forgive up to $20,000 in federal student loan debt for most students will be argued before the Supreme Court on Tuesday. Legal hurdles have prevented the government from erasing any debt for the 26 million borrowers who have requested for relief under Mr. Biden’s proposal, which was revealed in August.

The White House is certain that its strategy, which involves sidestepping Congress in favor of a 2003 statute called the HEROES Act, which gives the education secretary the authority to provide relief during national emergencies, is constitutional. The government maintained in a court filing that Mr. Biden’s directives to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona “fall comfortably within the plain text of the act.”

In a court filing, opponents, including six states run by Republicans, say the order is an abuse of presidential power that seeks “breathtaking and transformative power” while basing itself on “a tenuous and pretextual connection to a national emergency.”

Caught in limbo are millions of borrowers, like Mr. Doresky, who have swung between hope and despair as Mr. Biden’s relief plan was started and then halted. “To the people making these decisions, $10,000 is not a lot of money,” Mr. Doresky said. “But when it’s a big part of your actual net worth or savings, it really matters.”

On Tuesday, hundreds of debtors will be transported to the Supreme Court by more than a dozen advocacy organizations. Organizations as disparate as the Hip Hop Caucus and the National Council of Jewish Women have joined forces with labor unions, civil rights groups, and youth activists for this event. Morgan State University senior and vice president of the Baltimore branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Desiree Veney planned to leave college at the crack of dawn to attend the rally. Ms. Veney, the second-oldest of 10 siblings and the first in her family to go to college, recognizes the racial-justice component of Mr. Biden’s proposal. As compared to white grads, black borrowers leave school on average $25,000 more in debt from their student loans.