Because it helps Black Americans, conservative Wisconsin group sues over student loan forgiveness

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 12: Student loan borrowers gather near The White House to tell President Biden to cancel student debt on May 12, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for We, The 45 Million)

Rick Esenberg, president and general counsel of the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, says, “The White House has indicated that one reason to do this is that they believe it would disproportionately benefit certain racial groups. […] The racial motivation supports these taxpayers standing to challenge [the policy] and informs yet another constitutional difficulty with the program.”

The suit is asking for a preliminary injunction and a temporary restraining order to stop students from getting loan forgiveness while the court and the judge are deciding the case.

According to the White House Fact Sheet, “The Department of Education will provide up to $20,000 in debt cancellation to Pell Grant recipients with loans held by the Department of Education, and up to $10,000 in debt cancellation to non-Pell Grant recipients. Borrowers are eligible for this relief if their individual income is less than $125,000 ($250,000 for married couples).”

USA Today reports that online applications for Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan is expected to go live in the next few days. 

There is nothing in the plan about favoring students based on race, and yet the Wisconsin group knows that student loan debt in the U.S. disproportionately impacts Black students.

Abby Shafroth, director of the National Consumer Law Center’s Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project, tells the Post, “Student loan policies have had a discriminatory impact, and student debt cancellation helps to remedy some of that discriminatory impact, but this is a race-neutral policy.”

The suit additionally argues that Biden and the Department of Education’s plan is an executive overreach and violates the constitutionally-mandated separation of powers by skirting congressional approval.

Biden’s administration challenges the notion that he needs congressional approval, citing the “HEROES Act” of 2003, a law that clearly gives the executive branch broad authority to overhaul student loan programs.

Scot Ross, a Democratic strategist, tells Wisconsin Public Radio that the suit is “specious” and “horrendous.”

“This is so obnoxious for them to try and claim that the law is somehow the law because there are more student loan borrowers who may be African American, that this is somehow a violation of the equal protection clause. […] The fact is that student loan borrowers are hardworking. They did the right thing. They took on the responsibility for financing their higher education. They are simply asking to be treated fairly in a system that treats them unfairly,” Ross said. 

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