UPDATE (11/14/22): On Nov. 14, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals granted a motion to extend the pause it had placed on the Biden administration's student loan forgiveness program while it considers an appeal in State of Nebraska v. Biden. This does not affect Brown v. U.S. Department of Education, which is the case that has halted the program entirely.
President Joe Biden announced his administration’s plan for widespread student loan forgiveness in late August. Under this planned program, the Department of Education would forgive $10,000 in student debt for anyone making under $125,000 a year, and $20,000 in student debt for people under that annual income limit who received Pell Grants.
In October, applications to receive this $10,000 or $20,000 in student debt relief opened. Although the administration didn’t give a targeted timeline of when it would forgive loans, it said the pause on loan repayments would end in January 2023.
An earlier court order paused the program, but only while an appeals judge considered the merits of a lawsuit against the administration. At that time, the application remained open. But now people are claiming the application has been closed.
Has the Biden administration taken down the student loan forgiveness application after a court decision?
Yes, the Biden administration has taken down the student loan forgiveness application after a court decision.
WHAT WE FOUND
On Nov. 10, 2022, a U.S. district court judge in Texas sided with the plaintiffs in Brown v. U.S. Department of Education, a lawsuit in which the plaintiffs were asking to halt the student loan forgiveness program. The plaintiffs argue that the Department of Education illegally ignored the Administrative Procedure Act’s notice-and-comment requirement, which requires federal agencies to seek public comment before rulemaking.
The judge blocked the forgiveness program after declaring it was “unlawful.”
On Nov. 11, 2022, the application form for the student loan forgiveness program was taken down.
“Courts have issued orders blocking our student debt relief program,” the webpage for the application form read on Nov. 11. “As a result, at this time, we are not accepting applications. We are seeking to overturn those orders.”
That’s different than the message on Nov. 10, when the application was still available.
“As a result of a court order, we are temporarily blocked from processing debt discharges,” read the notice on Nov. 10, with the application still open beneath it. “We encourage you to apply if you are eligible. We will continue to review applications. We will quickly process discharges when we are able to do so and you will not need to reapply.”
More from VERIFY: Yes, a court order paused Biden’s student loan forgiveness program
The change between Nov. 10 and Nov. 11 is also reflected on the student debt relief information page. The Department of Education has noted it will hold the applications of people who have already applied, while the Biden administration seeks an appeal.
Before the latest ruling, debt discharge was only temporarily paused while a judge considered a decision on a different lawsuit. Since Oct. 20, the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has considered an appeal in State of Nebraska v. Biden, a lawsuit in which the attorneys general of six states claim the forgiveness program would cause their states financial harm, after a district court sided with the Biden administration. On Oct. 24, the appeals court ordered a stay prohibiting the Biden administration from discharging any student debt under its plan while the court considered the appeal.
In Brown v. U.S. Department of Education, the district court sided against the administration and the forgiveness program, declaring the administration’s program “an unconstitutional exercise of Congress’s legislative power” that “must be vacated.”
The Department of Education has filed an appeal, which would elevate the case to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. There, a judge will either affirm the lower court’s decision, leaving the program vacated, or will reverse the decision and lift the block on the program. Whichever decision the court makes, it’s likely the suit will be appealed to the Supreme Court next. If the Supreme Court declines to weigh in on the case, the decision made by the Court of Appeals will be final.
Even if the Fifth Circuit quickly sides with the administration, the Department of Education will not be able to discharge debt under the program until all court orders either temporarily blocking the program or vacating it entirely are lifted. Currently, the temporary stay issued by the judge in State of Nebraska v. Biden is the only other court order blocking the program.
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