A group of eight state attorneys general have sent a letter to President Biden, urging him to cancel all outstanding federal student loan debt, while at the same time, an attorney who worked in the Department of Education under President Obama has written a memo, outlining why such a move would be “legally risky” according to a published report.
The letter, signed by the attorneys general of Hawaii, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Washington, and Puerto Rico, said canceling federal student loan debt would be “one of the most impactful racial and economic justice initiatives in recent memory.”
Expending resources to help individuals who have been “tricked” into forbearance plans, suing contractors who “bungle critical processes,” and protecting consumers from “aggressive” and “predatory” for-profit colleges have given the AGs a “deep understanding of the systemic challenges” facing student loan borrowers and restarting payments instead of forgiving them “will only make matters worse.”
“We are currently embroiled by a significant international conflict, our economy remains fragile and consumer prices for every day necessities are spiking at rates unseen for decades,” the AGs wrote. “While pushing out repayment restarts and attempting to tackle past forbearance abuses are helpful, they are not enough. Now is not the time for half measures, extensions or patchwork solutions. Now is the time for decisive action.”
But such a move might not be legally possible, according to a memo written by Charlie Rose, who was the Education Department’s top lawyer from 2009 to 2011. “If the issue is litigated, the more persuasive analyses tend to support the conclusion that the Executive Branch likely does not have the unilateral authority to engage in mass student debt cancellation,” he wrote.