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Secretary of Education Does Not Have Authority to Enact Student-Loan Forgiveness

In the case of Biden v. Nebraska, 143 S.Ct. 2355, 216 L.Ed.2d 1063 (2023), the United States Supreme Court held that the Secretary of Education did not have the Congressional authority from the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act (“HEROES Act”) to broadly modify statutes to allow for the cancellation or reduction of student loans.

In this case, the states argued that, while the HEROES Act allows the Secretary of Education to waive or modify statutes involving student loans, it does not allow the Secretary to completely rewrite those statutes. In response, the Secretary of Education argued that the delegation of authority in the HEROES Act was broad, which allowed the Secretary to make changes either big or small. The United States Supreme Court agreed with the states.

In support of its lead decision in favor of the states, the United States Supreme Court explained that it is generally assumed that Congress does not delegate broadly, but only grants limited authority unless the authority is specified. The United States Supreme Court further explained that the economic impact of the student-loan forgiveness would be too great for a reasonable person to assume that Congress intended to delegate that level of authority and discretion.

In support of its dissenting opinion in favor of the Secretary of Education, the United States Supreme Court explained that Congress delegated authority broadly to the Secretary of Education because it was given to be used exclusively during times of war or national emergency, when a response to the emergency needs to be quicker than what Congress can do. The United States Supreme Court further explained that the statute clearly gives the Secretary the power to waive or modify, which is what the Secretary did by enacting student-loan forgiveness.

To read this case, click here.

Authors: Matthew John Markling and the McGown & Markling Team.

Note: This blog entry does not constitute – nor does it contain – legal advice. Legal jurisprudence is like the always-changing Midwestern weather. As a result, this single blog entry cannot substitute for consultation with a McGown & Markling attorney. If legal advice is needed with respect to a specific factual situation, please feel free to contact a McGown & Markling attorney.

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