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Bipartisan Baldwin Effort to Save Perkins Loans Obstructed Once Again in Senate

UW System President and Chancellors: “With the expiration of the program, our students are ‘caught in the middle.’”

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, today went to the Senate floor for a second time to save the critical Federal Perkins Loan Program, which expired on September 30, 2015. Senator Baldwin took action with a “unanimous consent request” to fund the student loan program for one year, but Senator John McCain (R-AZ) objected on behalf of Senate Republican leadership.

On September 30, Senator Baldwin led a bipartisan coalition on the Senate floor in an attempt to save the program before its expiration. Senator Lamar Alexander, Chairman of the HELP Committee, blocked their efforts.

During her remarks on the floor today, Senator Baldwin discussed her recent college affordability listening session in Kenosha, “During the course of that conversation, it was abundantly clear that most of the students were very frustrated that Congress could not take the most commonsense steps to make it happen. I told them I shared their frustration and ensured them I would be going back to Washington, D.C. to fight on their behalf…So here I am, almost one month from the day I last stood here on the Senate floor. One month since a single Senator, stood up and blocked a commonsense – and bipartisan – measure that would have continued to provide critical, financial support for America’s low-income students.”

WATCH Senator Baldwin’s remarks on the Senate floor.

Today, Senator Baldwin received a letter from UW System President Ray Cross and cosigned by all fourteen UW System chancellors. In addition to Senator Baldwin, the letter was addressed to the leadership of both House and Senate education committees, as well as Senator Ron Johnson and Representatives Mark Pocan and Glenn Grothman. In their message to Congress they shared compelling insight into how the sudden end to the Federal Perkins Loan program is already affecting Wisconsin students.

“…we need to keep this program in place. After all, our job is to help students who would not otherwise be able to attend higher education and to help them overcome barriers, particularly financial barriers, all of which helps to ensure access, retention, completion, and a skilled workforce. These are goals upon which we all can agree,” they wrote.

“I am disappointed that our bipartisan effort has once again been obstructed. I will continue to fight to extend this support for America’s students and I hope students across America urge their Senators to join this effort so that we can find a way to show the half a million students that we stand with them and are committed to helping them build a stronger future for themselves and our country,” said Senator Baldwin after her bipartisan efforts were obstructed today.

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.

In fact, the program has been a critical resource for thousands of the neediest UW System students over the years, dispersing nearly $29 million to more than 15,800 students in 2013-14 alone. In other words, nearly 1 in every 11 students enrolled in the UW System that year were directly impacted by the Federal Perkins Loan Program. 

Last month, Senator Baldwin introduced a bipartisan resolution urging the extension of the program. The resolution is cosponsored by Republican Senators Ayotte, Collins, Kirk, Portman, Thune, and Rounds.

The Federal Perkins Loan Program provides low-interest loans to students who cannot borrow or afford more expensive private student loans. Colleges originate, service and collect the loans. Through a revolving fund, institutions maintain loans available for future students.

Since the program’s creation, institutions have invested millions of dollars in their own funds in the program. In addition to making higher education accessible for low-income students, the program serves as an incentive for people who wish to go into public service by offering targeted loan cancellations for specific professions in areas of national need such as teaching, nursing, and law enforcement.