Wyoming lawmakers are hailing Friday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down President Joe Biden’s long-delayed student loan relief program as a victory for personal responsibility.
The program would have allowed eligible borrowers to cancel up to $20,000 in debt each at an estimated cost of more than $400 billion.
Biden had proposed forgiving $10,000 to $50,000 in debt for those making less than $125,000 to $150,000 a year, which accounts for about 97% of active student loan holders.
The program has been blocked since the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a temporary hold in October. About 43 million people were eligible to participate.
‘People Need To Pay Back Their Loans’
State Rep. J.T. Larson, R-Rock Springs, is attending school online at the University of Wyoming after receiving an associate degree at Western Wyoming Community College.
Despite having his student loans deferred throughout his college career, Larson said he supports the courts’ decision because he believes everyone should take responsibility to pay back the loans they took out.
“People need to pay back their loans just like everyone,” he said. “It’s not fair to those who already have.”
Although he hasn’t had to pay any of his college loans so far and is set to graduate in September, Larson said he isn’t worried about paying his student loans back because of the cheap cost of Wyoming tuition.
“I’m pretty fortunate being in Wyoming and with the low interest rates,” he said.
Rep. Mike Yin, D-Jackson, said the court’s decision doesn’t solve the problem Biden’s program was trying to address.
“The cost of tuition in the United States is still astronomical,” he said. “But I’m still glad that our state Constitution ensures that an education at the University of Wyoming is nearly free.”
Rep. Ken Chestek, D-Laramie, is a University of Wyoming professor who represents part of the school’s campus in his district.
Chestek believes Friday's decision is an example of the Supreme Court unjustly wading into the political sphere, a trend he believes has accelerated in recent years.
“Courts used to give deference to interpretations of statutes made by the agencies charged with enforcing those statutes, but that norm has recently been eroded,” he said. “Courts today are much more likely to intercede and replace the agency’s interpretations with their own interpretation.”
Chestek believes the Biden administration simply took a more aggressive interpretation to the same law former President Donald Trump’s administration used to suspend student loan payments at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Think Of It As An Investment
Larson acknowledged student loan repayment costs will be much higher for others, such as those seeking medical degrees with costs running well over $100,000.
But Rep. Cyrus Western, R-Big Horn, said for those seeking a medical degree it makes more sense higher loan amounts will be needed.
“They’re having to take out loans of $200,000 to $300,000, which is a lot of money, but they’re getting a job that pays a lot of money so that makes sense,” he said.
Western said people need to start thinking more about the economics of what job they can get with their particular field of study and personal income. He said the decision to take out student loans is no different than a car payment or home mortgage.
“Nobody should be taking out money unless they have a clear plan to pay it back,” he said.
Western blames the American education system for doing a poor job warning students about the costs and benefits of pursuing certain avenues of education and majors.
Delegation Also Supports Ruling
All three members of Wyoming’s congressional delegation have spoken against the debt relief plan and supported the court’s decision on Friday.
“Today’s decision is a victory for every American who played by the rules and worked hard to pay off their own debt,” U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, said in a press release Friday morning. “Senate Republicans warned that President Biden’s student loan scheme was unconstitutional. This decision confirms that.”
U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyoming, agreed.
“Asking hardworking people in Wyoming to cover a $400 billion bill for doctors, lawyers and those with multiple graduate degrees has always been morally wrong, and I applaud the Supreme Court for finding it legally wrong as well,” Lummis said in a press release. “President Biden cannot rule by executive order, simultaneously going around the will of the American people.”
In May, the U.S. House passed legislation that would’ve also blocked Biden’s student loan plan. U.S. Rep. Harriet Hageman voted for it.
“SCOTUS got it right today — only Congress can appropriate funds,” she told Cowboy State Daily. “Biden’s $430 billion student loan ‘cancellation’ only passes along the cost of a degree to others that didn’t take out the loan.”
The Supreme Court struck down the student loan package in a 6-3 decision.
‘The Fight Will Not End Here’
In her dissent, Justice Elena Kagan criticized the majority’s invocation of the “major questions doctrine,” which the court’s conservatives have used as a basis to give judges the power to strike down regulations and other actions when they say Congress was not explicit enough in authorizing them.
Kagan described the doctrine as “made-up” and “specially crafted to kill significant regulatory action by requiring Congress to delegate not just clearly but also microspecifically.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, called the student loan decision disappointing and cruel in a tweet. He also hinted that this may not be the end of the student loan fight.
"The fight will not end here," Schumer said. "The Biden administration has remaining legal routes to provide broad-based student debt cancellation."
Leo Wolfson can be reached at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.