“Now what?”

That question is likely on the minds of millions after a federal court judge in Texas Thursday tossed out the Biden administration’s student loan forgiveness program.

The forgiveness of student loans was a 2020 campaign promise President Joe Biden made. And in recent weeks while campaigning before the midterm elections, Biden touted he had kept his promise. The program, announced in late August, provided $10,000 in loan forgiveness for applicants making less than $150,000 or in households making under $250,000. Pell Grant recipients were eligible for up to $20,000 in student loan forgiveness.   

The White House says some 26 million Americans had signed up for the program, and 16 million of them were already approved.

But Trump appointee Judge Mark Pittman nixed the program saying it unconstitutionally circumvented Congress.

The timing accelerates planning for people with student loan debt because the payments resume in January after a three-year pandemic pause.

“The very first thing you do is make sure your contact information is up to date with whoever your student loan servicer is,” said Andy Mattingly, chief operating officer at FORUM Credit Union.

Mattingly says loan holders also need to get key information from lenders including what options there may be for reduced monthly payments and the deferments that may be available.

Budgeting will also be important. Knowing monthly payment amounts now can help frame a household budget that includes successful payment of student loans.

“If you know what your payment is gonna be start really looking at your budget and saying, ‘Can I really do that?’ And maybe start setting that money aside now… so you can live that way and not wait until January,” said Mattingly.

One lingering question is whether the Biden administration facing the setback with the Texas ruling may extend the student loan payment pause to explore some options.

“I think a fair question in the next couple of days depending on how long this lasts is the moratorium actually going to be over on January 1?”, said Phil Schuman, executive director of Financial Wellness and Education at Indiana University.  

The US Justice Department has already filed an appeal notice of the Texas ruling but faces an uphill battle. Reviving the student loan forgiveness program would require either the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals or the US Supreme Court to overturn the lower court ruling and both panels have a majority of conservative members.