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Education law attorney talks challenges to Biden’s student loan plans

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Everyone seems to be rushing to get their share in student loan forgiveness funds, but it’s slow going to get access.

“I’m still dealing with it. I couldn’t get in yesterday. Again, I couldn’t get in this morning,” says Castleton local David Ridgeway.

Friday, Ridgeway made the drive to drop his 18-year-old off at SUNY New Paltz. He says not only can they not check if they’re eligible for President Biden’s newly announced forgiveness program, they can’t even get access to square away all the current loans and scholarships to ensure they’re first-day-of-school ready.

“The frustrating thing is accessing this Federal Student Aid website. That’s what I really need to do now, I’m sure I’m not the only one,” he says to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.

He certainly isn’t. We did a test in the NEWS10 newsroom. Some folks got to the login page in two minutes flat while others are still drumming their fingers after 20, then an hour or more.

Meanwhile, Republicans have wasted no time challenging both the loan forgiveness and repayment pause. A new bill – the Responsible Education Assistance through Loan (REAL) Reforms Act, co-authored by Congresswoman Elise Stefanik – claims President Biden’s initiative is “unlawful abuse” and “without the authorization of Congress.”

“That’s not really how this works,” counters education law attorney Leslie Silva. “If Congress does not like the federal laws that the president is using to do this, then they certainly have the authority to go try and change those laws, but the laws as they stand now do give him and the Department of Education, the Secretary of Education, the ability to do this.”

Silva is a partner at Tully Rinckey and says it’s not new for an institution to forgive its own borrowers, like the Administrator of Small Businesses or the Department of Agriculture have in years past.

Stefanik also claims Biden’s program doesn’t hold schools accountable for the massive debt they saddle on students by limiting loan amounts or interest rates:

“This massive student loan bailout does nothing to rein in the cost of higher education or hold colleges accountable for saddling students with huge debt for degrees with little value in the workforce.”

However, here again Silva says this is not a question for the federal government.

“A private college is private like any business. The federal government doesn’t have a lot of room there to interfere, unless it could be proven the school was charging in a way they should not or using federal funds they received improperly,” she explains.

“For a state school system, that’s the state’s own interest. States have sovereign interests, so like with SUNY, with the New York Department of Education, they can make those terms for the SUNY schools, but that’s only within each state,” Silva goes on to say.

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