Student loan borrowers stage a rally in front of the...

Student loan borrowers stage a rally in front of the White House in August to celebrate President Biden's move to cancel student debt. The plan remains on hold.

Credit: TNS/Paul Morigi

The Supreme Court decided Thursday that President Joe Biden's plan to cancel student debt would remain blocked for now, but it put the case on a fast track, with plans to hear arguments in the late winter.

Long Islanders had mixed reactions to the court's decision — while some still hoped that Biden's plan would become reality, others felt the program unfairly shifts the financial burden of people's education loans to the American public.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit had issued an administrative stay on the program in October, throwing it into a kind of suspended animation.

The program promises $10,000 in federal student debt forgiveness to those with incomes of less than $125,000, or households earning less than $250,000. Pell Grant recipients, who typically demonstrate more financial need, are eligible for an additional $10,000 in relief.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Long Islanders had mixed reactions to the Supreme Court decision that President Joe Biden's plan to cancel student debt would remain blocked for now.
  • Some have asserted that Biden overstepped his authority in taking such sweeping action without the assent of Congress. Others say he has the power to do so. 
  • The court's decision to hear arguments in about three months means it is likely to determine whether the widespread loan cancellations are legal by late June.

The court's decision to hear arguments in about three months means it is likely to determine whether the widespread loan cancellations are legal by late June, according to The Associated Press. That's about two months before the newly extended pause on loan repayments is set to expire. 

Tiffany Kassem-Benchimol, a teacher on Long Island with $119,000 in college debt, said she recently received a letter saying she qualified for the debt forgiveness. She estimated the relief would amount to $20,000.

Now, like 22 million Americans who applied for relief, she is holding her breath.

"I hope the judges take into account how this affects people," said Kassem-Benchimol, 31, of Port Washington. "Imagine how many Americans will feel this weight lifted."

But Paul Kosowski of Bellmore said his daughter Nicolette plans to pay back all of the approximately $30,000 in loans she received attending Molloy College. He said it's wrong for people to transfer their personal debt onto the backs of American taxpayers. 

"I think when people enter into a contract to pay back a loan, they have a duty to fulfill that," said Kosowski, 58, who is vice chairman of the Nassau County Conservative Party. "If the government shifts the burden to taxpayers, that's not fair."

The Supreme Court building on Capitol Hill in Washington.



	 

The Supreme Court building on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Credit: AP/Patrick Semansky

The Congressional Budget Office has said the program will cost about $400 billion over the next three decades.

Conservative attorneys, Republican lawmakers and business-oriented groups have asserted that Biden overstepped his authority in taking such sweeping action without the assent of Congress. 

Andy Lockwood, owner of Lockwood College Prep in Glenwood Landing, said he is advising his clients to not expect the forgiveness program to become a reality. 

Lockwood said he does not believe the president had the authority to create such a program.

"Any reasonable person can see that forgiving student loans amounts to an expansive, aggressive reading of executive authority," Lockwood said. 

He said the intent of the law was to give the president authority during a national emergency, "but Biden himself has said we don't have a pandemic anymore."

Alan Singer, director of Secondary Education Social Studies at Hofstra University's education department, said the president does have such power. 

"He does have legal authority to make executive decisions on implementing policy," Singer said. "This is a financial decision on budgeting."

Even so, Singer said he does not expect the Supreme Court to side with Biden, if only because he believes the court leans toward the political right.

"Their decisions tend to be ideological. I think they'll strike it down on ideological grounds," he said.

The administration had wanted a court order that would have allowed the program to take effect even as court challenges proceed. But as a fallback, it suggested the high court hold arguments and decide the issue, the AP said. 

SUNY Old Westbury President Timothy Sams said people have gone through a unique experience with the COVID-19 pandemic, and many continue to face economic uncertainty.

"Among the many questions we must ask ourselves as a nation is whether we value our citizens enough to provide needed student loan relief, like the economic relief that we provide to our businesses and industries," Sams said in a statement. "Do we want to saddle these graduates with decades of loan repayments, or would our nation benefit more by allowing them to save for their future families, homes and other life-changing opportunities?"

Kassem-Benchimol, a married mother of two, said the loan forgiveness could help her save for a house.

"I'm hoping to save as much as I can. I don't know if that would happen if I'm spending extra on student loans," she said.

With AP

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