Perkins Loan Programby Senator Barbara Boxer
Posted on 2015-10-21
BOXER. Mr. President, I come to the floor today to urge my
colleagues to act to reauthorize the Perkins Loan Program--the Nation's
oldest Federal student loan program and a critical lifeline for
thousands of low-income students with exceptional need.
This crucial program has the support of many higher education groups, including the Association of American Universities, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, the American Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, the National Association of Financial Aid Administrators, the Coalition of Higher Education Assistance Organizations and many others--as well as dozens of individual colleges and universities across the country. Despite this broad support, funding for Perkins Loans expired on October 1.
While our colleagues in the House unanimously approved the Higher Education Extension Act--which would extend the Perkins Loan Program for 1 year--the Senate has yet to act. And that inaction has left thousands of current and future students scrambling to figure out how to pay for school and institutions struggling to find another way to help students afford their education.
This program has existed with broad bipartisan support since 1958 and has provided more than $28 billion in loans to students in all 50 States. In the 2013-2014 academic year alone, more than 539,000 new and returning students benefited from the Perkins Loans Program--including 46,065 students in California.
Unlike the Federal direct lending programs, Federal Perkins loans are made and then repaid to the individual university. They are offered at a low, fixed rate of 5 percent--and repayment doesn't begin for 9 months after a student graduates, giving them enough time to get on their feet. The program also includes important loan forgiveness opportunities for those who decide to enter public service after graduating.
This program particularly helps students who have tapped out all other Federal student aid options and still face a gap in paying for school or other expenses. It helps students bridge that funding hole so they don't have to turn [[Page S7409]] to expensive private loans--which don't have the same protections as Federal student loans.
But without this program, the California State Student Association estimates that more than 3,400 students in the California State university system alone could be forced to take out private loans or delay graduation.
Student loan debt now exceeds $1 trillion. That's more than credit card debt. It's more than auto loans. In fact, it is second only to mortgage debt in this country. We owe it to current and future students to make sure college is as affordable as possible. That is what the Higher Education Extension Act and the Perkins Loan Program do.
We have no time to spare now. Let's get back on track and take up the extension bill that the House already passed and ensure our students are not left in the lurch. Thank you.