Attorney General Mark Brnovich filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Arizona on Thursday to block the Biden administration's plans for student loan forgiveness, after threatening to sue at the beginning of September.
In a statement, Brnovich denounced the Department of Education's use of the HEROES Act to apply federal student loan cancellation to a national emergency like the COVID-19 pandemic. The HEROES Act was originally meant for use after 9/11 and any subsequent terrorist attacks.
"This mass debt forgiveness program is fundamentally unfair, unconstitutional, and unwise," Brnovich said in the statement. "The question Americans need to be asking is why college costs so much in the first place."
In the suit, Brnovich cites President Joe Biden's comments from a 60 Minutes interview on Sept. 18, when the president claimed the COVID-19 pandemic was "over." Brnovich said this statement would not allow the Department of Education to cancel student loan debt under the HEROES Act.
Earlier this month, Brnovich said he and other state attorneys general were looking into potential legal action to block student loan forgiveness. Six other states joined in a federal lawsuit also filed Thursday, arguing Biden overstepped his authority.
A White House spokesman denied the claim in a statement to the New York Times Thursday.
"Republican officials from these six states are standing with special interests and fighting to stop relief for borrowers buried under mountains of debt," said White House spokesperson Abdullah Hasan. "The president and his administration are lawfully giving working- and middle-class families breathing room as they recover from the pandemic and prepare to resume loan payments in January."
The Biden administration's plan would provide up to $20,000 in relief for Pell Grant recipients and up to $10,000 for non-Pell Grant recipients who make less than $125,000, or $250,000 for married couples.
The Department of Education will launch a portal in October for borrowers to apply for forgiveness. It will be open until Dec. 31, 2023, giving borrowers over a year to apply.
Guidance for Perkins loans and Federal Family Education Loans, federally backed but privately held loans, were quietly changed on Thursday as well. Previously, the Education Department advised borrowers with those loans to consolidate them into federal Direct Loans so they could be forgiven, but now the department's website says those loans cannot be consolidated.
This excludes borrowers who took out loans many years ago, as the Perkins loan and FFEL loans were discontinued in 2010. It's unclear why the department reversed its guidance, and it has not announced it publicly.
According to data gathered from the Department of Education by Axios, nearly 900,000 Arizonans have student loan debt and the average borrower owes over $35,000.
Edited by Piper Hansen, Wyatt Myskow and Grace Copperthite.
Reagan Priest is a managing editor, overseeing and working with the six digital desks at The State Press. She previously worked as a social justice reporter for Cronkite News and as a digital production intern at The Arizona Republic.