October 29, 2015

Warner, Kaine Urge Senate Leadership To Save Student Loan Program

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today pressed Senate leaders to take up and pass legislation to reauthorize the Perkins Loan Program. This critical lifeline for many low-income students expired on September 30, despite receiving a unanimous one-year, no-cost extension from the House of Representatives on September 28. Since its expiration, a bipartisan coalition of Senators has twice attempted to reauthorize the program with a “unanimous consent” request, but the Senate has yet to pass the bill.

The Perkins Loan Program is the nation’s oldest federal student loan program, has existed with broad bipartisan support since 1958 and has provided more than $28 billion in loans through almost 26 million awards to students in all 50 states. Perkins loans offer a five percent fixed interest rate, no origination fees, and a nine-month grace period. These reasonable, relatively low-dollar loans make college a reality for the lowest-income students who would otherwise turn to higher interest private loans or conclude that a college education is out of their reach. In the 2013-2014 academic year alone, the program helped more than 7,800 low-income students at more than three dozen Virginia colleges and universities fund their educations.

School

Recipients

Advanced Technology Institute

2

University of Mary Washington

20

ECPI University

43

Marymount University

49

Randolph College

64

American National University

110

Emory & Henry College

66

Virginia Military Institute

103

Virginia State University

103

Mary Baldwin College

177

Virginia Wesleyan College

112

Sweet Briar College

73

Hollins University

109

Randolph - Macon College

141

Ferrum College

185

Hampden Sydney College

94

Old Dominion University

93

Longwood University

161

Lynchburg College

213

Averett University

113

Shenandoah University

101

Roanoke College

169

Northern Virginia Community College

133

Eastern Mennonite University

361

College of William & Mary

232

James Madison University

418

Radford University

163

Norfolk State University

230

Bridgewater College

446

Eastern Virginia Medical School

91

Washington and Lee University

129

George Mason University

211

Hampton University

266

University of Richmond

210

Virginia Commonwealth University

594

Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University

768

University of Virginia

1,255

Virginia Total

7,808

 Source: Office of Federal Student Aid

Sens. Warner and Kaine joined 52 colleagues – a bipartisan majority of the Senate – in sending a letter today to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Harry Reid urging them to act now to reauthorize the Perkins Loan Program. While both Senators support efforts to improve our student aid system as part of a comprehensive reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, a complete overhaul will not be completed in the immediate future. The Commonwealth’s neediest students deserve certainty and predictability in their financial planning in the meantime.

“There are many students who will be disadvantaged by the Senate’s inaction and the program’s expiration… Many Senators have proposals aimed at making our various federal student aid programs work better for students, parents, and institutions.  We look forward to discussing and debating ways to improve these important federal supports for higher education during this Congress,” wrote the Senators. “In the meantime, we should immediately take up and pass the House-passed extension to provide certainty to students and ensure that this important source of student financial assistance is not interrupted.”

Previously, Sens. Warner and Kaine were joined by U.S. Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA-3), Gerry Connolly (D-VA-11), and Don Beyer (D-VA-8) in a Sept. 28 letter urging the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) to approve a one-year Perkins reauthorization.

The full text of today’s letter is below. A PDF of the signed letter is available here.

October 29, 2015

Dear Leader McConnell and Leader Reid:

On October 1, the authorization of the Perkins Loan Program, the nation’s oldest federal student loan program and a critical lifeline for many low-income students, expired.  While our colleagues in the House of Representatives unanimously approved a one-year, no-cost extension of the program through the Higher Education Extension Act (H.R. 3594), the Senate has yet to advance that measure.  As a result, thousands of current and future students face uncertainty and hundreds of institutions are struggling to find another way to help their neediest students afford their education.  We write to express our strong support for the Perkins Loan Program and to request that the Senate take up and pass the Higher Education Extension Act as soon as possible.

The Perkins Loan Program has existed with broad bipartisan support since 1958 and has provided more than $28 billion in loans through almost 26 million awards to students in all 50 states.  In the last academic year alone, the program lent $1.1 billion to more than half a million students with financial need across more than 1,500 institutions of higher education. 

The Perkins Loan Program disburses financial aid to students through a campus-based revolving fund that leverages federal dollars with significant institutional investment. Colleges and universities have continued to participate in this self-sustaining program despite a lapse in federal appropriations for nearly a decade. The required institutional capital contribution gives colleges and universities “skin in the game,” and the loan payments from graduates are used to make new loans to other students. As a campus-based program, Perkins also enables these institutions to provide targeted support to the students they know have the greatest financial need.  That is why it is broadly supported by higher education groups, including the Association of American Universities, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, the American Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, the National Association of Financial Aid Administrators, the Coalition of Higher Education Assistance Organizations, the American Council on Education and many others, as well as dozens of individual colleges and universities across the country. 

There are many students who will be disadvantaged by the Senate’s inaction and the program’s expiration.  For example, students who have previously received Perkins loans will lose their eligibility if they change institutions or academic programs.  In addition, if the program is not reauthorized soon, students seeking Perkins loans for the upcoming winter and spring semesters in 2016 may be ineligible.  All future students will be ineligible for this vital program, which helps fill the gaps between what is available through the Direct Loan Program and a family’s ability to pay. On average, this is $2,000 in financial aid.  As many as 150,000 current freshmen will lose access to these loans in the next academic year.   

Many Senators have proposals aimed at making our various federal student aid programs work better for students, parents, and institutions.  We look forward to discussing and debating ways to improve these important federal supports for higher education during this congress.  In the meantime, we should immediately take up and pass the House-passed extension to provide certainty to students and ensure that this important source of student financial assistance is not interrupted. 

Immediately taking up the House-passed extension bill is a simple solution that can provide clarity in the near term to students and the colleges and universities that serve them without any cost to the federal government.  The Congressional Budget Office concluded that this one-year extension would incur no new costs to the federal government because it includes limitations on the length of student participation in the program.  The House has already acted unanimously to extend the Perkins Loan Program for one year.  We urge you to take up and pass the Higher Education Extension Act without delay.

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