“This bill is simple in its purpose.”
So stated Republican Rep. John Kline of Minnesota, who served as a Marine helicopter pilot in Vietnam, when he introduced the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act on March 25, 2003.
“It extends the specific waiver authority within title IV of the Higher Education Act for the Secretary of Education, and allows him to maintain his commitment to our men and women in uniform by providing assistance and flexibility as they transfer in and out of postsecondary education during a time of national emergency,” said Kline.
“This waiver authority addresses the need to assist students who are being called up to active duty or active service,” Kline said.
“Many times, America’s military are also students,” said Kline. “These heroes deserve the flexibility and accommodations that institutions of higher education can provide as they deploy and return to the classroom.”
When the bill came up for a vote on April 1, 2003, Kline once again emphasized that its purpose was to help men and women who had served their country in the military.
“The HEROES Act provides assurance to our men and women in uniform that they will not face education-related financial or administrative difficulties while they defend our Nation,” he said.
“The HEROES Act,” he said, “achieves this by granting the Secretary of Education the authority to address the specific needs of each student whose education is interrupted when they are called to service.
“This bill is specific in its intent to ensure that as a result of war, military contingency operation, or national emergency our men and women are protected,” Kline said.
“By granting flexibility to the Secretary of Education,” he said, “the HEROES Act will protect recipients of student financial assistance from further financial difficulty generated when they are called to serve, minimize administrative requirements without affecting the integrity of programs, adjust the calculation used to determine financial need to accurately reflect the financial condition of the individual and his or her family, and provide the Secretary with the authority to address issues not yet foreseen.”
This was the “specific” intent of the HEROES Act as described by its primary sponsor, but the actual language of the bill was not specific enough.
It gave the Secretary of Education the power to “waive or modify any statutory or regulatory provision applicable to the student financial assistance programs under title IV of the act as the Secretary deems necessary in connection with a war or other military operation or national emergency or to provide the waivers or modifications authorized by paragraph (2).”
Paragraph (2) of the law said the secretary was “authorized to waive or modify any provision described in paragraph (1) as may be necessary to ensure that — (A) recipients of student financial assistance under title IV of the Act who are affected individuals are not placed in a worse position financially in relation to that financial assistance because of their status as affected individuals.”
Flash forward to Aug. 24, 2022. Using the HEROES Act as its justification, President Joe Biden’s Department of Education announced that day that it was cancelling $20,000 in student loan debt for people who had received Pell Grants and $10,000 in student loan debt for non-Pell Grant recipients. This loan forgiveness would apply to individuals earning up to $125,000 per year and households earning up to $250,000.
A month later, the Congressional Budget Office sent a letter to members of Congress offering this analysis of Biden’s action: “CBO estimates that the cost of student loans will increase by about an additional $400 billion in present value as a result of the action canceling up to $10,000 of debt issued on or before June 30, 2022, for borrowers with incomes below specified limits and an additional $10,000 for such borrowers who also received at least one Pell grant.”
The word “cost” here means the amount of money that taxpayers will be charged — or the federal debt will be increased — to cover the loans Biden seeks to forgive.
Several states, including Nebraska, filed suit to stop Biden’s plan. In November, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit issued an injunction that halted the loan forgiveness until the Supreme Court could review it. This week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Biden’s plan.
In a brief submitted to the court, Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar claimed that the “emergency” that justified Biden’s August 2022 student loan forgiveness declaration was the COVID-19 pandemic that began in early 2020.
“(T)he plan,” she said, “reflects the Secretary’s determination that a one-time discharge of a limited measure of debt for a subset of affected borrowers is necessary as the country works to recover from the devastating effects of COVID-19.”
What she meant was this: Americans who did not go to college, or who have paid off their student loans, or who paid for their own college educations must now be forced by the government to pay in perpetuity for the student loans voluntarily taken out by others.
They will do this by paying taxes to cover the interest on the debt the government itself incurred when it funded these loans in the first place.
As 17 states, led by Utah, said in a brief to the Supreme Court: “The President is attempting one of the largest wealth transfers in American history.”
The court must stop it.
Terence Jeffrey is editor-in-chief of CNSNews.