How does the Supreme Court’s decision on student loan forgiveness affect you and your finances? Email senior writer Alicia Adamczyk for a future article.
The U.S. Supreme Court blocked President Joe Biden’s widespread student loan forgiveness program in a 6-3 decision Friday. And while that’s bad news for the tens of millions of borrowers who would have had $10,000 to $20,000 in debt forgiven, the president’s most transformative student loan policy can still take effect, helping more borrowers in the future.
That policy is the new income-driven repayment (IDR) plan proposed by the U.S. Department of Education. Though not finalized yet, the plan would lower payments for many borrowers and allow them to reach forgiveness faster. Unlike the forgiveness plan, this is not a one-time effort; it’s a new repayment plan that borrowers can enroll in going forward.
“It won’t result in immediate forgiveness, but it could result in less money out of pocket for a lot of borrowers,” says Betsy Mayotte, president of The Institute of Student Loan Advisors.
An income-driven repayment plan bases a borrower’s monthly student loan bill on their annual income and family size, and the amount is recalculated each year to take into account any changes. Remaining debt is forgiven after 20 to 25 years. These types of repayment plans have become much more popular in recent years as the cost of college has ballooned and more people have attended, with around 8 million borrowers currently enrolled.
The new IDR plan proposed by the Biden administration would decrease the percentage of discretionary income borrowers would need to repay, and cut the repayment period for some borrowers. It is not in effect yet but could be in the coming months.
“The IDR plan is going to be very generous relative to the current law for many borrowers,” says Kent Smetters, faculty director of the Penn Wharton Budget Model. “Paying off college debt is going to be substantially easier.”
The Congressional Budget Office estimates the new plan will cost about $250 billion over the next 10 years. Conservatives, buoyed by the Supreme Court’s decision on the forgiveness program, have indicated that they may challenge the IDR program next, given its cost.
“If loans are not forgiven through loan forgiveness, they could potentially be forgiven through IDR,” says Michael Brickman, adjunct fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. “The actual cost of that program will increase substantially if the loans are not forgiven.”