(WJW) — The U.S. Department of Education says it will not stand down in response to the recent decision of a federal judge to strike down the student debt relief program.

The program set out to provide borrowers with up to $20,000 in student loan relief.

District Judge Mark Pittman ruled that the program was “an unconstitutional exercise of Congress’s legislative power.” 

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said the Department of Justice has appealed the decision on the Department of Education’s behalf:

“We believe strongly that the Biden-Harris Student Debt Relief Plan is lawful and necessary to give borrowers and working families breathing room as they recover from the pandemic and to ensure they succeed when repayment restarts.

“We are disappointed in the decision of the Texas court to block loan relief moving forward. Amidst efforts to block our debt relief program, we are not standing down. The Department of Justice has appealed today’s decision on our behalf, and we will continue to keep borrowers informed about our efforts to deliver targeted relief.

“More than 26 million borrowers have provided the information needed to process their applications for relief and 16 million applications have been approved and sent to loan servicers to be discharged when allowed by the courts.

“Separately, we remain committed to taking other actions to fix longstanding issues in the student loan forgiveness system and hold schools accountable for leaving students with mountains of debt and without the skills and preparation to find good jobs.

“Despite this decision, we will never stop fighting for the millions of hardworking students and borrowers across the country.”

The Biden administration says it has authority to forgive student loans under the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act of 2003. 

Congress gives the Department of Education its authority to make rules. Student loan forgiveness is of vast “economic and political significance,” so Pittman found that the agency is required to show that it has a clear authorization from Congress for the program, which he ruled it did not.

An announcement was made on Friday that the Biden administration it would stop accepting student loan forgiveness applications in light of the ruling.