Letter signed by 53 organizations and 535 colleges and universities calls on congressional leaders to pass one-year extension of critical student loan program
U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, is continuing her efforts to reauthorize the federal Perkins Loan Program as 53 organizations and 535 colleges and universities, led by the American Council on Education, call on congressional leaders to pass a one-year extension of the critical student loan program.
Last week, as the House and Senate finalized bipartisan legislation to fix No Child Left Behind (NCLB), and reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), Senator Baldwin reiterated her commitment to ensuring the Perkins Loan Program is also reauthorized as soon as possible:
“[A]s we move forward in this bipartisan process to improve and reauthorize a critical federal education law for America’s young people in preschool and the K-12 grades, I felt compelled to remind my colleagues of this unfinished business that impacts whether those students will also be able to afford to take the next step in their educational journeys…Unfortunately, by letting the Perkins authorization lapse, we have left thousands of current and future students facing uncertainty and hundreds of institutions struggling to find another way to help their neediest students afford their education…I believe it is critical that we not leave those students and institutions depending on Perkins in the lurch.”
“The entire American higher education community strongly supports the reauthorization of the Perkins Loan Program. The recent expiration of this valuable program has caused significant concern for the hundreds of thousands of students who rely on Perkins loans to finance their education, and it is critical that an extension is passed as soon as possible to prevent further harm to students. I applaud Senator Baldwin’s continued efforts to reauthorize the Perkins Loan Program on behalf of students and families across America and urge Congressional leaders to immediately pass a one-year extension,” said American Council on Education President Molly Corbett Broad.
Since 1958, the Federal Perkins Loan Program has been successfully helping Americans access affordable higher education with low-interest loans for students who cannot borrow or afford more expensive private student loans. In Wisconsin, the program provides more than 20,000 low-income students with more than $41 million in aid.
In fact, the program has been a critical resource for thousands of the neediest UW System students over the years, dispersing nearly $29 million to more than 15,800 students in 2013-14 alone. In other words, nearly 1 in every 11 students enrolled in the UW System that year were directly impacted by the Federal Perkins Loan Program.
During her remarks on the Senate floor last month, Senator Baldwin discussed her recent college affordability listening session in Kenosha where students shared their concerns about the expiration of the Perkins Loan Program, “During the course of that conversation, it was abundantly clear that most of the students were very frustrated that Congress could not take the most commonsense steps to make it happen. I told them I shared their frustration and ensured them I would be going back to Washington, D.C. to fight on their behalf…So here I am, almost one month from the day I last stood here on the Senate floor. One month since a single Senator, stood up and blocked a commonsense – and bipartisan – measure that would have continued to provide critical, financial support for America’s low-income students.”
Since the program’s creation, institutions have invested millions of dollars in their own funds in the program. In addition to making higher education accessible for low-income students, the program serves as an incentive for people who wish to go into public service by offering targeted loan cancellations for specific professions in areas of national need such as teaching, nursing, and law enforcement. Colleges originate, service and collect the loans. Through a revolving fund, institutions maintain loans available for future students.