What the loan forgiveness ruling means for medical, nursing students

The Supreme Court on June 30 struck down President Joe Biden's plan to forgive more than $400 billion in student loan debt, meaning thousands of students pursuing careers in the healthcare industry will be on the hook for repaying tuition costs. 

The program would have allowed more than 43 million borrowers to cancel up to $20,000 of federal student debt, according to NBC News. The debt forgiveness program had been paused since an appeals court issued a temporary hold last October. 

Given their earnings, fully trained and practicing physicians were not likely to qualify for relief. However, medical residents and nursing school graduates were expected to qualify.  

In the 6-3 ruling, the court determined that President Biden's education secretary exceeded his authority with the program. 

"The Secretary's comprehensive debt cancellation plan cannot fairly be called a waiver — it not only nullifies existing provisions, but augments and expands them dramatically," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the opinion. "However broad the meaning of 'waive or modify,' that language cannot authorize the kind of exhaustive rewriting of the statute that has taken place here."

Interest on outstanding federal student loan balances will resume Sept. 1, and payments will be due starting in October, according to the U.S. Department of Education

Student loan debt has long been a barrier preventing students from underrepresented groups or low-income communities from pursuing a career in medicine. In 2022, medical students graduated with an average of $205,037 in education debt, according to data from the Association of American Medical Colleges.

The ruling comes a day after the Supreme Court determined that U.S. colleges and universities cannot consider race as a factor for admissions in a pair of decisions industry leaders say could hinder efforts to create a more diverse healthcare workforce. 

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