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AAUP Files Brief Supporting Student Debt Relief

The AAUP joined the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) in filing an amicus brief supporting the Biden administration’s efforts toward student loan debt relief. Citing the significant financial hardships brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the brief emphasizes that “student debt cancellation is essential for American workers, including teachers, faculty members, nurses, and government workers'' as the federal government fights to prevent delinquency and default rates from spiking above prepandemic levels. The case arises from the August 2022 decision made by the secretary of education to authorize partial loan forgiveness as an extension of the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students (HEROES) Act, which was passed by Congress in 2003. The secretary argued that lower-income borrowers would be at heightened risk of delinquency and default if the across-the-board pause put in place at the beginning pandemic was to be lifted, and deployed the HEROES Act to safeguard borrowers by extending the pause and offering expanded relief. Since this decision, six-Republican led states have filed lawsuits seeking to stop the secretary’s plan from being implemented, and after several rounds of federal appeals, the case is set to be heard by the Supreme Court on February 28, 2023.

The brief stresses in particular the hardships faced by college and university faculty members who hold student loan debt, drawing on individual accounts and AAUP reports to emphasize how the pandemic “has deepened the already substantial financial hardships and employment instability of adjuncts and other university faculty.” It also contends that outright cancellation of student debt better aligns with the aim of the HEROES Act rather than continued forbearance or temporary relief measures, noting how the “ill effects” of the pandemic are anything but temporary. The AAUP, AFT, and AFSCME assert that student debt cancellation will “hasten the recovery of the broader public service sector” by lessening unnecessary hardships and “will reduce the burden of high educational costs, one of the main barriers keeping talented professionals from entering public service work,” a crucial step toward the protection and continuation of academic freedom.

Learn more or download the full brief here.

Publication Date: 
Thursday, January 12, 2023