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Arkansas attorney general sues over Biden student loan forgiveness plan

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge speaks with reporters at her downtown Little Rock office on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022.
Daniel Breen
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge speaks with reporters at her downtown Little Rock office on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022.

Arkansas and five other states are suing the Biden Administration in an attempt to block its plan to forgive hundreds of millions of dollars in student loan debt.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge on Thursday announced Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and South Carolina are suing President Joe Biden, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and the U.S. Department of Education over the proposal.

In a news conference, Rutledge said Biden overstepped his authority in granting the debt relief.

“The president’s actions violate the law and are beyond his authority as president of the United States. The Department of Education is required under the law to collect the balance due to these loans. President Biden does not have the authority to override that,” Rutledge said.

Rutledge says Biden’s plan relies on a 2003 law known as the HEROES Act, which allows for student loan forgiveness for those who’ve suffered economic hardship resulting from a national emergency. She says Biden’s assertion that the COVID-19 pandemic qualifies as a national emergency is not lawful.

“The HEROES Act was meant to provide relief to our troops, and it’s a disgrace that the president is trying to bail out adult college students who voluntarily took out these loans,” Rutledge said.

Rutledge says she and other state attorneys general are seeking a temporary injunction against Biden’s student loan plan, which was set to begin forgiving debt as soon as next week. She said Biden’s plan is unfair to those who did not attend college or did not take out loans.

“You took out that loan with the promise that you would pay it back. And so to those Arkansans who took out their loans, do what I did and pay that loan back. Don’t put your loan on the backs of someone else who didn’t benefit with a college degree like you did,” Rutledge said.

The announcement comes the same day the Biden Administration announceda major rollback to the student loan forgiveness plan, potentially excluding millions of borrowers from obtaining debt relief.

Officials with the Arkansas Student Loan authority estimate as much as $3 billion in student loan debt could be forgiven in the state under Biden's plan, affecting up to 350,000 borrowers.

Daniel Breen is News Director of Little Rock Public Radio.