"Courts have issued orders blocking our student debt relief program. As a result, at this time, we are not accepting applications. We are seeking to overturn those orders. If you've already applied, we'll hold your application," the notice says.

About 26 million Americans have applied for student loan forgiveness, and the US Department of Education has already approved requests from 16 million.

The appeal would be heard initially by a three-judge panel of the New Orleans-based 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals, a court dominated by conservative judges who have stymied other Biden policies.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday the department would hold onto application information "so it can quickly process their relief once we prevail in court."

US District Judge Mark Pittman, an appointee of former Republican President Donald Trump in Fort Worth, called the program an "unconstitutional exercise of Congress's legislative power" by Biden as he ruled in favor of two borrowers backed by a conservative advocacy group.

The litigation could ultimately wind up at the US Supreme Court. Conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett has already turned back two requests to block the program in lawsuits out of Indiana and Wisconsin, two states she is assigned to assess emergency appeals from.