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A Harvard law professor who said the education secretary has legal authority to forgive $50,000 in student debt per person as Sen. Elizabeth Warren proposed was appointed to serve in the Department of Education's legal division.
Toby Merrill, founder of the Project on Predatory Student Lending, which provides legal representation to low-income borrowers against for-profit schools, will serve as the deputy general counsel within the Education Department’s Office of General Counsel, the agency announced Tuesday.
The Project on Predatory Student Lending, part of the Legal Service Center at Harvard Law School, has represented over a million borrowers since its founding in 2016 and helped secure the cancellation of more than $2 billion in student loan debt provided for institutions that use “deceptive and relentless sales tactics to recruit students,” according to its website.
Merrill, along with the project’s legal director, Eileen Connor, and attorney Deanne Loonin, provided legal analysis for another major student loan forgiveness push last year in Warren's debt cancellation plan.
The three told Warren that her plan to cancel up to $50,000 in student debt for individual borrowers, which Warren initially proposed as a Democratic presidential candidate and has since reintroduced, provides for “a lawful and permissible use of the authority Congress has conferred on the Secretary of Education.”
“In assessing your proposal, we have consulted the statutory and regulatory framework governing federal student loan programs administered by the Department of Education, as well as the framework and controlling interpretations of the budgetary structure of these programs,” Merrill, Connor, and Loonin wrote in a Jan. 13, 2020, letter to Warren. “We conclude that your proposal calls for a lawful and permissible exercise of the Secretary’s authority under existing law.”
“The power to create debt is generally understood to include the power to cancel it. This power rests in the first instance with Congress,” they added, arguing that Congress has extended that authority to the education secretary.
President Joe Biden has publicly favored a proposal to forgive up to $10,000 for borrowers but has said he doesn't think he has the authority to forgive $50,000. Biden was examining the legal authority behind the $50,000 proposal, White House chief of staff Ron Klain said in April.
Warren and other Senate Democrats have continued to pressure Biden to take action on student debt as the administration's policy efforts have favored other issues.
"It’s time for President Biden to #CancelStudentDebt," Warren wrote on Twitter on June 25. "People need this. Our country needs this. And one of the best ways to create a 21st-century economy is by investing in people who have invested in their own education."
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Original Author: Jeremy Beaman