Both state and federal legislators are focused on the upcoming elections but there are a few items worthy of mention:
At a recent joint press conference, Governor McMaster and Congressman Clyburn (D-S.C. 6th District) announced that 100,000 S.C. residents had secured broadband access in the last year. The state has more than $400 million set aside to get access for the remaining 250,000 residents who lack it. We learned the importance of broadband access during the pandemic when many students at SCICU-member and public institutions struggled to participate in courses online for lack of bandwidth.
Student Loan Debt Forgiveness
On Oct. 17 the Biden Administration opened the student loan debt application portal. Already 12 million have applied. Individuals making less than $125,000 ($250,000 for couples) qualify for $10,000 in federal student loan debt forgiveness. Borrowers who also received Pell Grants can get $20,000 of their debt erased.
There are five court cases challenging the administration’s authority to cancel student debt.
A federal judge recently dismissed one of the lawsuits which had been filed by the attorneys general in six states, including South Carolina. U.S. District Judge Henry E. Autrey of the Eastern District of Missouri concluded that the states lacked the standing to bring the lawsuit. Nevertheless, Judge Autrey observed “plaintiffs present important and significant challenges to the debt relief plan to stop one of the administration’s signature economic policies.” The case will likely be appealed.
The Brown County Taxpayers Association’s lawsuit in Wisconsin had previously been rejected by a federal judge in Wisconsin. The association sought an emergency restraining order and preliminary injunction from the U.S. Supreme Court to block Biden’s student debt relief plan from going into effect while they appealed. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who is assigned Wisconsin for such cases, rejected the request without comment.
On Sept. 30 Congress passed a continuing resolution to fund the federal government at current FY 2022 spending levels through December 16, 2022. What will happen when the continuing resolution expires is not yet known and is dependent on the results of the election. There is good news for the Pell Grant Program in FY 2023 – both the House and Senate versions of the budget include a $500 increase in the Pell maximum grant.
Affirmative Action at the SCOTUS
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear two cases disputing the legality of affirmative action on October 31. Deliberations on the two cases — Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows at Harvard College and Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. University of North Carolina –- will likely take months, with a decision not expected until June 2023.