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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Appeals court lifts ban on Biden’s student loan repayment plan

By Danielle Douglas-Gabriel Washington Post

President Joe Biden can move forward with implementing a key part of his new student loan repayment plan after a federal appeals court lifted a temporary ban on that aspect of the program.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit decided Sunday to stay an injunction imposed to block Biden from launching the final component of the Saving on a Valuable Education program, commonly known as Save. The injunction, handed down last week by U.S. District Judge Daniel D. Crabtree of Kansas, blocked the Education Department from cutting most enrollees’ monthly payments in half starting in July. Justice Department attorneys had implored the higher court to set aside the order pending appeal.

“The 10th Circuit sided with student loan borrowers,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement Monday. “President Biden, Vice President Harris and I remain committed to our work to fix a broken student loan system and make college more affordable for more Americans.”

With the ban temporarily lifted, the department said Monday that borrowers with undergraduate debt will see their payments cut from 10% to 5% of income above 225% of the federal poverty line. Borrowers who also have graduate loans will have their payments lowered by the weighted average between 5% and 10%.

The appeals court ruled days after the Biden administration suspended payments and interest charges for 3 million people enrolled in Save in response to the injunction. Those borrowers will remain in forbearance this month and will be expected to pay their first lowered payment in August, according to the Education Department.

Borrowers who had been in forbearance before Crabtree’s court ruling – because servicers needed to recalculate their lower monthly payment – are also expected to make their first monthly payment in August. The department said anyone who received a bill from a federal loan servicer reflecting July’s lower payment is expected to make a payment this month. The ruling has no bearing on Save enrollees who qualify for $0 monthly payments because their earnings are so low.

The legal wrangling stems from a lawsuit brought in Kansas by 11 Republican-led states, which alleged that Biden exceeded his authority by creating a repayment plan that could cost more than $230 billion over the next decade. Crabtree agreed the department failed to clearly show that Congress authorized the repayment plan and said the program’s economic impact would require congressional input.

Despite the weekend win with the appeals court, the Biden administration is contending with another injunction in Missouri that has stopped the department from forgiving any loans under the Save plan. The agency has approved $5.5 billion in loan cancellation for 414,000 enrollees who met the plan criteria by originally borrowing less than $12,000 and paying down their debt for at least 10 years.

In that case, U.S. District Judge John A. Ross agreed with Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey and five other Republican-led states that Biden probably lacks the authority to erase debts through the Save plan. He also agreed that the loan-forgiveness component would harm the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority, a quasi-state agency that services federal student loans and funds state scholarships.