The central argument in George F. Will’s Feb. 19 op-ed, “A repudiation of Biden’s student loan lawlessness,” was that Congress has not authorized student loan forgiveness. But the statute at issue clearly authorizes the education secretary to “waive” or “modify” student loan obligations “as deemed necessary.” It further instructs the secretary to “ensure that affected individuals” are not “placed in a worse position financially” on account of any “national emergency,” which Congress defined to include anyone who lives in an area declared to be a “disaster area” by an appropriate official. Even while playing down the harms caused by the pandemic, President Donald Trump correctly declared the pandemic to be a national emergency affecting all Americans.
Rather than relying on an amicus brief filed by conservative activists, including former attorney general William P. Barr, Mr. Will should have read the amicus brief my law firm filed on behalf of actual academic experts on student loan issues. As that brief explained, the economic literature shows that “unlucky cohorts” who graduate into difficult economic conditions are likely to suffer financially for a decade or more as a result. Because Congress told the secretary to “ensure” that student borrowers are not put in a “worse position financially” on account of national disasters, it would have been lawless for the secretary not to take steps to ensure that borrowers are not worse off.
Christopher J. Wright, Bethesda