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Robert P.
Republican OH

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  • Higher Education Extension Act of 2015

    by Senator Rob Portman

    Posted on 2015-12-16

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    PORTMAN. Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Tennessee. I appreciate his work and help to ensure these kids are not going to be left in the lurch. There are kids in the State of Ohio who are expecting to get their Perkins loans this January as they go into the next semester, and there were certainly thousands of young people who were hoping in the fall that they were going to be able to take advantage of it, and they were very uncertain.

    It is a big program in Ohio. We actually have over 25,000 Ohio students who receive financial aid through Perkins. In one school alone, Kent State, 3,000 students.

    By the way, I got lobbied on this very directly. A young woman named Keri Richmond interned in my office last summer. Keri is a classic example of someone who needs Perkins because it fills in the gaps for her. In her case, she has a Pell. Yet as a young woman who has been in and out of foster homes her entire life--and, by the way, is a wonderful advocate and spokesperson for that program and how it helps foster kids to get on their feet--she does not have the help at home that many students do. So even for the small things, she needs that Perkins loan. She is very grateful today that we are extending this program, of course; but, more importantly, she is grateful for all her other colleagues at Kent State and around the State of Ohio.

    I was with some Ohio State students a couple weeks ago for a holiday party with the president of Ohio State, who is very pleased this has been finally handled because he was trying to plan. As we know, schools play a big role in Perkins. It is essentially like a revolving loan program. With the interest, they are able to come up with new loans for the next year. So the colleges and universities in Ohio are very involved. We have 1,700 students at Ohio State; overall, we have 60 schools in the Buckeye State--colleges and universities--taking advantage of this. So this is a big deal for us.

    I appreciate the fact that the chairman has been willing to sit down and work with us on this and come up with a way for us to move forward to give these young people the certainty that they need at a time when it is more expensive to go to college. This is a barrier for a lot of young people to be able to get that degree, to get the experience, to have the ability to be able to go out in this tough job market and be able to find work and find their place in the workforce. I am happy we have come to this point.

    I will say I am very eager to work with the chairman, Ranking Member Murray, and others over the next period of time while we extend this program to come up with a better way to deal with our student loan program generally. I think the chairman makes a good point about the complexity. I think he is probably right that it is so complex that some parents and students are turned off by it, and we can simplify it. Certainly, we can, but I also want to make it clear that we need to be sure that we are providing maximum flexibility for students who might otherwise get left behind and wouldn't be able to take advantage of the opportunity to go to college and get a degree. We should be doing everything in our power to provide more students in my home State of Ohio and around the country the chance to get the tools they need in order to be able to be successful.

    I thank Senator Ayotte, Senator Casey, and Senator Baldwin. We have been at this for a while. We have been out here on the floor a few times talking about this. I think this is a result that lets us say to the people we represent back home: We are going to give you that certainty, that confidence to know this is not going to be pulled away.

    On the other hand, we are going to work hard over the next couple of years to ensure that this program is viable for the longer term--along with other programs--and simplify these programs so they do work better for all the parents and all the students whom we represent.

    I thank the chairman. This is one of the good results at the end of the year. In a way, going into the Christmas season, it is appropriate that we have this little package that is now wrapped up and has a ribbon on it. But it does expire, so our work is not done, and we will only redouble our efforts to ensure that we can come up with a program that does provide the flexibility and important safety net that Perkins does.

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