UPDATE (11/11/22): A U.S. district court judge in Texas sided with plaintiffs in Brown v. U.S. Department of Education on Nov. 10, declaring the Biden administration's student loan forgiveness program unconstitutional. The Biden administration is appealing the ruling, which will take the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals. The story remains as published below.
In August, President Joe Biden announced his administration’s plan for widespread student loan forgiveness. The Department of Education planned to forgive $10,000 in student debt for anyone making under $125,000 a year, and $20,000 in student debt for people under that annual income limit who received Pell Grants.
The application for the debt forgiveness plan opened in October. Although the administration didn’t give a targeted timeline of when it would forgive loans, it said the pause on loan repayments would end in January 2023. Many borrowers are wondering where things stand with their loans in the meantime.
VERIFY reader Joseph texted the team to ask if a court order has paused debt forgiveness.
Did a court order pause President Biden’s student loan forgiveness program?
- U.S. Department of Education
- Court documents for State of Nebraska v. Biden
- U.S. Supreme Court
- Pacific Legal Foundation
- Various lawsuits listed on nonprofit court data archive Court Listener
Yes, a court order paused President Biden’s student loan forgiveness program.
WHAT WE FOUND
As of Nov. 3, 2022, both the Department of Education’s student debt relief information page and the application for student debt relief have notices explaining that discharge of student loan debt through the widespread forgiveness plan is paused because of a court order.
“Application is open, but debt discharge is paused,” the Department of Education says on both webpages. “As a result of a court order, we are temporarily blocked from processing debt discharges. We encourage you to apply if you are eligible. We will continue to review applications. We will quickly process discharges when we are able to do so and you will not need to reapply.”
The court order currently pausing student loan debt discharge is from the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals for State of Nebraska v. Biden, a lawsuit in which the attorneys general of six states claim the forgiveness program would cause their states financial harm. A district court judge dismissed the case on Oct. 20, but the plaintiffs appealed the decision. On Oct. 24, the appeals court ordered a stay prohibiting the Biden administration from discharging any student debt under its plan while the court considered the appeal.
The appeals court has yet to announce a decision as of Nov. 3, which means the pause currently remains in effect. If the appeals court sides with the plaintiffs, the pause will continue while the Biden administration appeals to the Supreme Court. If the appeals court sides with the Biden administration, the pause will end and the Department of Education will begin discharging debt, unless another court order pauses it.
More from VERIFY: Fast Facts about student loan forgiveness
There are at least five other significant court cases attempting to block the Biden administration’s forgiveness plan. So far, none of these other cases have forced a pause on debt discharge.
In one of the suits, Brown County Taxpayers Association v. Biden, the plaintiffs asked the Supreme Court to block the forgiveness plan while the case continued in a lower court. Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the last of former President Donald Trump’s three Supreme Court appointees, denied the request a day after it was made.
Another suit, Garrison v. U.S. Department of Education, has also been elevated to the Supreme Court in the hopes of blocking the debt relief program while litigation is ongoing. That case, like the others, was dismissed by a district court before it was appealed to a U.S. Court of Appeals.
Three other cases, Cato Institute v. U.S. Department of Education, State of Arizona v. Biden and Laschober v. Cardona, are still at the district court level.
More from VERIFY: Yes, the official student loan forgiveness application is now open