The Trump administration’s Education Department (ED) released a memo earlier this week arguing that student loan debt cancellation through executive action — a potential move advocated by prominent Democrats but downplayed by President-elect Biden — would be illegal.

The Education Secretary “does not have the statutory authority to cancel, compromise, discharge, or forgive, on a blanket or mass basis, principal balances of student loans, and/or to materially modify the repayment amounts or terms thereof,” the memo stated, at another point adding: “Among other things, we must be mindful of the fact that the Executive Branch does not have the dispensing power on its own.”

The content of the memo and timing suggested the outgoing administration was going to “try to box in the Biden administration,” Luke Herrine, a student loan expert and a PhD candidate at Yale, told Yahoo Finance. “The fact that this is a memo that’s especially written to Betsy DeVos, who is no longer in office …. I think it’s pretty clear that they were just trying to find a way to say with as much pomp and circumstance and authority as they can muster that they don’t agree with this interpretation.”

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