Higher Education Extension Act of 2015by Senator Tammy Baldwin
Posted on 2015-12-16
BALDWIN. I thank the chairman for this colloquy and for the
moment at which we have now arrived.
Mr. President, I rise to speak about the Perkins Loan Program--a vital investment in students that has been successful in helping Americans access affordable higher education and pursue their dreams.
Due to Senate inaction, the Perkins Loan Program lapsed at the end of September. I have twice come to the floor to urge my colleagues to take action and extend this critical student loan program which has helped literally millions of America's low-income students for more than half a century.
I am proud to have earned the support of a strong bipartisan majority in the Senate to continue this investment. Since the program's expiration, a growing chorus of advocates, students, and colleges and universities have joined our bipartisan coalition in calling on the Senate to act.
As has been well documented, my friend Chairman Alexander and I have had our differences on this issue. As he just shared, he has objected to my previous efforts to revive the Perkins Loan Program due to his concerns with the program that he wanted to address as a part of the discussion about reauthorizing the Higher Education Act--a discussion, by the way, I very much look forward to. But despite his prior objections, I have certainly remained firm in the belief that we must act now to help students, even as we look toward that future conversation on higher education starting at the education committee and then proceeding through the Congress.
I continue to work with my Republican colleagues and Democratic colleagues--especially those Republican colleagues who had concerns with the program--in order to find an interim path forward.
I am so pleased that we are here today with a bipartisan compromise that provides a 2-year extension of the Perkins Loan Program. The compromise before us today is not perfect, and this is not the legislation I would have written on my own. However, today we have found a bipartisan solution that breaks the gridlock and will revive the Perkins Loan Program, providing critical support to students across America who were left in the lurch when the program expired this fall.
This extension provides current and new undergraduate borrowers with access to Perkins loans through September 30 of the year 2017, allowing [[Page S8706]] them to complete both the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 academic years with the support of this important program. In addition, it provides current graduate students with a Perkins loan an additional year of eligibility through September 30, 2016, allowing them to complete the 2016-2017 academic year with the support of Perkins. Like the 1-year extension measure which the House adopted by voice vote earlier this fall, this 2-year extension is fully paid for.
I thank Chairman Alexander for working with me and Ranking Member Murray to address his concerns and to reach this compromise which we expect the Senate to pass in short order.
I also thank my strong allies in this fight: Senator Murray, Senator Casey, Senator Portman, Senator Ayotte, Senator Collins, and many other supporters of the Perkins Loan Program in the Senate.
I also thank our partners on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, Chairman Kline and Ranking Member Scott, who supported extending the Perkins Program. I am hopeful they will push this legislation across the finish line before Congress leaves for the year.
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, students such as Andrew, a current student at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point campus. Without the support of his Perkins loan, Andrew said he would not have had the means to attend college with the little to no income at his disposal. Today, not only is Andrew making the dean's list every semester, but he also has his sights set on attending the law school at the University of Wisconsin. Andrew said: ``Without the assistance I get from the Perkins Loan I would be forced to either take out other high-interest loans, delay my graduation rate, or drop out--which is the last thing I want to do.'' I am pleased that we have reached an agreement to extend this program for 2 years to help students just like Andrew. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the HELP Committee to ensure that campus- based programs like Perkins are a part of the future of Federal support for higher education.
Again, I thank the chairman for his colloquy and his hard work on reaching this resolution for the moment and look forward to the larger debate in the Education Committee when we reconvene next year.