WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, spoke from the Senate floor this afternoon to encourage her Senate colleagues to take action to protect a critical student aid program set to expireTOMORROW, September 30. Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation to extend this vital program for one year.
“In Maine, more than 5,000 students received a Perkins Loan last year, providing $9.2 million in aid…We have only one day before the Perkins Loan Program expires. Students at our colleges and universities are depending on us for the assistance that this vital and proven program provides,”Senator Collins urged from the Senate floor.
The Federal Perkins Loan is a low-interest loan that helps undergraduate and graduate students with demonstrated financial need meet the costs of higher education. Senator Collins remains committed to the broad reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, but in the short term, the Senate must immediately take action to prevent any lapse in the critical assistance provided to student borrowers.
Last week, Senator Collins, along with U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA), introduced a Senate resolution urging that the Federal Perkins Loan Program be extended. READ the bipartisan Senate resolution here.
Senator Collins’ remarks as prepared for delivery:
Mr. President, I rise to support reauthorizing the Perkins Loan Program, which will expire tomorrow, September 30th, if the Senate does not act. Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed legislation – the Higher Education Extension Act – to extend this vital program for one year. I urge my Senate colleagues to support this legislation and send it immediately to the President for his signature.
I want to thank my colleagues, Senators Baldwin, Casey, and Portman, for their leadership in highlighting the importance of this program, and I am pleased to join them in introducing the Senate Resolution urging its extension.
Since 1958, the Perkins Loan Program has helped make college affordable for millions of students who have financial need. In Maine, more than 5,000 students received a Perkins Loan last year, providing $9.2 million in aid. Last Friday, I had a conversation with the President of the University of Maine who told me just how critical Perkins loans are to UMaine students.
Mr. President, Perkins Loans are a critical part of a college’s and student’s financial aid resources. These loans help fill gaps beyond what is available through the Department of Education’s Direct Loan Program and a family’s ability to pay. A Perkins Loan can meet that additional need so that students don’t have to borrow through private or higher-cost loans and can remain in school.
Perkins borrowers are predominantly from lower-income families. For example, at the University of Maine last year, 64 percent of Perkins borrowers had a family income of $40,000 or less.
The Perkins Loan program is campus-based, which means that participating colleges and universities administer the loans. When students graduate, they make payments directly to their college or university, and those payments are used to make new loans to other students through a revolving fund. These revolving funds are a combination of a federal contribution and an institutional match. Congress has not appropriated funds to the Perkins Loan Program since 2004, but institutions continue to be able to assist needy students through this self-sustaining program.
As a member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, I know that our Committee is committed to the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. I support that effort. In the meantime, however, we must ensure that there is not a lapse in the financial assistance provided to students.
As I mentioned earlier, the House-passed bill extends the authority for the Perkins program for an additional year and does not authorize additional federal funds. Students who receive a Perkins Loan during this academic year and remain in the same academic program would be eligible to receive future Perkins Loans.
Mr. President, we have only one day before the Perkins Loan Program expires. Students at our colleges and universities are depending on us for the assistance that this vital and proven program provides. I urge this my colleagues to pass the House-passed bill so that the Perkins Loan Program does not expire.
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to submit for the Record a letter from the Chancellor of the University of Maine System supporting the Perkins Loan Program.