In the late 2010s, the concept of “free” university education started to gain traction with young Americans, but remained on the political fringe. Now, it has inched even closer to the policy centerpiece of the modern Democratic Party, as President Joe Biden tries to prove himself to be just as liberal as his Democratic counterparts. Today, the federal government is closer than ever to issuing student loan forgiveness under a plan put forward by the Biden administration.
“Democratic socialism,” a rebranding of a political philosophy considered controversial by voters, gained notoriety after Senator Bernie Sanders ran for president in 2016 on a platform to create federal policy that challenged traditional American values. Universal healthcare, “free” college education, and student debt cancellation were some of Sanders’ most prominent policy proposals. Ultimately, Democrats have decided twice now that Sanders’ flair of liberalism was no match for that of Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden’s seemingly moderate appeal — in 2016 and 2020, respectively.
But late in his primary bid for president, then-candidate Joe Biden revolutionized his policy plan for education. Biden told voters he supported making public colleges and universities tuition-free for students from families that make up to $125,000 annually. In a 2020 news release, Biden used this to reach out to supporters of Senator Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, two Democratic primary candidates at the time, who are perceived as far more progressive than Biden.
Now, almost three years later, the Biden administration has proposed a student loan forgiveness plan. But will students at Florida State and across the nation truly benefit from it?
The current plan proposes cancelling up to $20,000 of student loans for millions of Americans. However, it is currently the subject of a hotly contested lawsuit, with six states resisting the Biden administration’s move. Since this political issue has spilled over into the judicial realm, the Supreme Court of the United States is now scheduled to hear arguments for and against the policy on February 28, 2023. Their decision will likely put an end to this debate, at least for now.
Why the Supreme Court will likely reject Biden’s student loan forgiveness
The plaintiffs in the case (Missouri, Nebraska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas and South Carolina) assert the proposal exceeds Joe Biden’s authority as president, and would deprive states of tax revenue collected from student loans. It is no secret that this Supreme Court has been a strong advocate of states’ rights, as evidenced by the overturning of Roe v. Wade in June of 2022.
The Biden administration is defending the policy, arguing the HEROES Act of 2003 permits the president to authorize student loan forgiveness. This allows the Secretary of Education to ignore provisions concerning student loans during times of war and national emergencies. Commentators have speculated that the Biden administration will cite the COVID-19 pandemic as the “national emergency” that would permit President Biden to carry out the plan, even though the president himself has publicly stated that the pandemic is over.
Will current students see the day where their student loans are forgiven?
This is unlikely. Though Biden’s plan is more targeted than Bernie Sanders’ idea of universal college education, the policy is poised to fail according to scholars of the legal field. Outside of the complicated legal parameters of the debate, an idea like this is difficult to reconcile with American culture. In a nation based on the ideals of individualism and personal liberty, putting taxpayers on the hook for someone else’s education is a hard sell. Whether you support universal, federally subsidized college education, none at all, or something in between — it is important to remember nothing is truly “free.”