The U.S. Supreme Court rejected President Joe Biden’s plan for student debt relief that would have forgiven between $10,000 and $20,000 in student loan debt for millions of borrowers across the country, including nearly 439,000 Mississippians.
The ruling comes a day after the court found race-conscious admissions policies violate the Constitution.
Biden’s plan, which made good on a key campaign promise, would have primarily benefited Black, brown and low-income borrowers, who nationally and in Mississippi have higher averages of student debt than white, wealthier borrowers. It was based on a 2003 law that gave the president the authority to waive federal student loans during a national emergency like the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the court disagreed that Biden could use the law how he wanted in the 6-3 partisan ruling. Writing for the conservative majority, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote Biden’s plan amounted to rewriting “that statute from the ground up.”
That argument was made in an amicus brief that Attorney General Lynn Fitch signed onto in November last year. Fitch’s office did not respond to Mississippi Today’s request for comment on the ruling.
On Twitter, Gov. Tate Reeves wrote “this is another good decision from the Supreme Court and another win for America.”
“It is utterly absurd and incredibly unfair to punish the blue collar electrician or plumber, or any individual who worked hard to pay off his debt, so that Joe Biden can effectively bribe voters with our tax dollars,” Reeves added.
But student debt affects working-class professions, too. Trade schools can also leave students burdened with debt, and borrowers who attended for-profit colleges default at higher rates than those who do not, often because these institutions charge pricey tuition rates for non-accredited degrees.
And Biden’s plan could have been a boon for Mississippi’s tax revenue, Mississippi Today reported last year. Thanks to a longstanding state tax provision, the Mississippi Department of Revenue would have taxed student loan forgiveness the way it does any form of debt cancellation as income.
That would have left in-state borrowers on the hook for up to $1,000 in additional state income taxes.
A bill was introduced this legislative session to prevent that from happening, but it died in committee.
Monthly payments on federal student loans are currently paused but set to resume this fall; the first payment will be due in October.
Molly Minta covers higher education for Mississippi Today, in partnership with Open Campus.