Buffalo Law Review

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The notion of a student debt jubilee has begun its march from the margin of policy debates to the center, yet scholarly debate on the value of canceling student debt is negligible. This article attempts to jump start such debate in part by presenting a novel policy proposal for implementing a jubilee. In addition to reviewing the history of student debt and the arguments for canceling much or all of it, it presents a detailed legal argument that canceling public student debt (which accounts for 95% of student debt outstanding) could be undertaken by the Executive Branch without further legislation. The Secretary of Education has already been given the authority to “modify” and to “compromise, waive, or release” its claims against students. There is a strong argument under current case law that this authority is a grant of prosecutorial discretion, which would be unreviewable by courts. Even if a court were to rule otherwise, at least some cancellation plans would likely survive “arbitrary and capricious” review. In any case, this litigation risk is not a good enough reason for a President not to try to relieve the burdens of student debt if Congress cannot agree on a bill that will do so.