Two left-leaning Alabama mayors co-authored an article in Time Magazine on Monday urging the U.S. Supreme Court to approve President Joe Biden’s plan to forgive up to $20,000 in student loan debt for millions of borrowers across the United States, which federal officials estimate would cost the country a total of $300 billion over the next 10 years.
Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin and Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed co-authored the opinion piece alongside Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. and Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas.
Americans owe almost $1.75 trillion in student loans. Through an executive order, Biden created a debt forgiveness plan in August 2022, two months before the recent midterm elections. If approved, the plan would forgive up to $20,000 in federal student loan debt to Pell Grant recipients and up to $10,000 to all other federal student loan borrowers with individual incomes less than $125,000 or household incomes less than $250,000.
After state attorneys general challenged the legality of the plan, lower courts placed it on hold. The Biden administration initially paused student loan payments and interest during the COVID-19 pandemic and has since extended the moratorium again several times. Currently, payments and interest are set to resume by the end of June.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) heard over three hours of oral arguments for and against the debt cancellation plan. According to Politico, most of the SCOTUS justices appeared skeptical of the plan and questioned whether the U.S. Department of Education has the legal authority to discharge federal student loans.
Some economists have argued that the federal government offering loose credit to fund tuition drove up tuition costs in the first place, and the Biden debt cancellation plan is a way of financially rewarding Democratic voters, who are the primary beneficiaries of the executive order.
On the other hand, the four mayors claim that attorneys general who say the Biden administration’s debt relief would be harmful to the states are wrong.
“As the mayors of four major cities with significant Black and brown populations, we hope the justices kick this ill-conceived case out of court,” the mayors wrote. “The Biden administration’s debt cancellation plan is not only especially meaningful for our constituents, it will also lift up our cities and states economically.”
The mayors argued that almost 90% of the 40 million borrowers who would receive debt cancellation under the Biden plan earn less than $75,000 per year. They cited a report from CNBC which claimed that 53% of student loan borrowers believe their financial stability relies on having a portion of their student loans forgiven.
According to the mayors, forgiving student loans would allow people to start new businesses, buy homes, pay back other debts, become less reliant on welfare programs, raise families and even improve mental health.
“This debt relief will have intergenerational impacts, as it will allow families to accumulate wealth and support relatives to pursue and complete their own degrees in higher education,” the mayors insisted. “Despite the many benefits of freeing our residents of oppressive debt, our states’ attorneys general, however, are claiming that our states will somehow be ‘harmed’ economically by the debt cancellation plan—a strained attempt to establish what is called standing in federal court. What they are really doing is misusing their power in an effort to score political points, all at the expense of our communities and so many people of color.”
This article comes at a highly contentious moment in the career of one of the authors. Recently, leaked audio revealed Reed claiming to have threatened State Sen. Will Barfoot (R-Pike Road) and State Rep Reed Ingram (R-Pike Road) to garner favorable legislation, leading Ingram to call for his resignation.
Don’t miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.