On Thursday, the Federal Perkins Loan Program Extension Act of 2017 was blocked on the Senate floor by Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN).
The bill, S. 1808, was introduced to the floor on September 14th by Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and received strong bipartisan support. Due to Senator Alexander’s action, the bill will likely expire on Saturday, September 30th if the Senate does not meet again before then.
If the federal student loan program is not extended by Saturday, it will end and no new federal student loans will be administered through the Perkins Program after September 30th. Current college students that have received funding under the Perkins Loan Program will not lose funding for this academic year.
Senator Baldwin released the following statement after the extension bill was impeded: “The Perkins Loan Program expires in two days, yet our bipartisan legislation to extend this critical college affordability program has been obstructed. Students and families are depending on Washington to get the job done, not block college affordability.”
If the Federal Perkins Loan Program Extension Act of 2017 had been passed it would have received funding for two more years. A similar situation had occurred a couple of years ago when the Perkins Loan Program was running out of money. In December of 2015, the Senate voted to lengthen the program by two years, which has brought us to this point.
While Baldwin introduced the bill, it was also co-sponsored by an impressive bipartisan list of legislators, including Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Dick Durbin (D-IL).
According to Senator Baldwin’s website, if the program is not extended than roughly 1,500 higher education institutions will not be able to provide low-interest loans that will leave approximately 700,000 students without access to financial aid.
The Perkins Student Loan Program is not only one of the most popular and impactful federally-run financial aid programs, but it is the oldest federal student loan program in the U.S. Since the program’s inception in 1958, it has been responsible for distributing over $28 billion in student loans to about 26 million students. The program, which is administered by individual colleges and universities, is mainly designed for low-income students that lack the ability to access expensive private student loans.
The move by Sen. Alexander isn’t entirely out-of-character. Over his career, Sen. Lamar Alexander has opposed federal financial aid programs on several occasions according to LendEDU’s congressional student debt research. In 2014, he characterized the federal student loan refinancing initiative as nothing more than a “stunt.” His opposition to federal subsidization stems from his support for the private market which he referenced directly in a 2010 press release.
Currently, the U.S. has a total outstanding student loan debt of $1.41 trillion. That collective debt is owed by at least 44 million student loan borrowers, who each owe an average of $27,975.
Author: Mike Brown
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