WASHINGTON- The Supreme Court is set to issue a long-awaited ruling on Friday that will determine whether President Joe Biden’s long-delayed plan to forgive student loan debt can move forward.

The program, which would allow eligible borrowers to cancel up to $20,000 in debt and is estimated to cost more than $400 billion, has been blocked since the US Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit issued a temporary stay in October. . About 43 million people are eligible to participate.

The administration has estimated that the program would eliminate all federal student loan debt for about 20 million people.

The Supreme Court will rule on the last day of its nine-month term, a day after conservative justices voted to end systematic consideration of race in college admissions. The court has another case to decide, on whether a Christian web designer can refuse to work on same-sex weddings.

The student loan proposal is politically important to Biden, as tackling student loan debt was a key campaign promise he made in 2020 to energize younger voters.

But with a conservative-majority Supreme Court suspicious of the executive branch’s sweeping claims, Biden’s plan faces a major hurdle. During oral arguments in February, conservative justices expressed skepticism that the administration could authorize such relief without explicit permission from Congress.

Regardless of what the court decides, the student loan repayment process will begin again at the end of August after being put on hold during the Covid-19 pandemic, though the first payments won’t be due until October.

The court is considering two cases: one brought by six states, including Missouri, and the other brought by two people who have student loan debt, Myra Brown and Alexander Taylor.

The challengers argued that the administration’s proposal, announced by Biden in August and originally scheduled to take effect last fall, violated the Constitution and federal law, in part because it bypassed Congress, which they said has the sole power to create laws related to student loan forgiveness. .

In defending the plan, the Biden administration cited a 2003 law called the Higher Education Opportunities for Student Relief Act, or HEROES Act, which says the government can provide relief to student loan recipients when there is a «national emergency.» «, allowing you to act to ensure that people are not «in a worse financial position» as a result of the emergency.

Challengers said the HEROES Act’s language is not specific enough to authorize a proposal as broad as Biden’s plan.

Biden had proposed canceling student loan debt during the 2020 presidential election campaign.

The administration finally proposed forgiving up to $10,000 in debt for borrowers making less than $125,000 a year (or couples filing jointly and making less than $250,000 a year). Pell Grant recipients, who are the majority of borrowers, would be eligible for $10,000 more in debt relief.

The administration closed the application process after the plan was blocked. Student loan debt holders currently do not have to make payments as part of the Covid relief measures that will remain in place until after the Supreme Court issues its ruling.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated in September that Biden’s plan would cost $400 billion.