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U.S. Senate Passes Bipartisan, 2-Year Perkins Loan Extension

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Led Bipartisan Coalition to Save Program after September 30 Expiration

UW System President: “A significant victory for the students and families who are most in need of financial aid”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, a member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, released the following statement after the U.S. Senate cleared a bipartisan compromise to extend the Federal Perkins Loan Program. Senator Baldwin has led a bipartisan Senate coalition to reauthorize the program, which expired on September 30, 2015, cutting off the ability for approximately 1,500 colleges and universities across the country to make low-interest loans to new borrowers and leaving 150,000 students who have just started college in the lurch.

The bipartisan Federal Perkins Loan Program Extension Act of 2015, passed by the U.S. Senate today, builds on a bill passed unanimously by the U.S. House of Representatives in September and provides for a two-year extension of the Perkins Loan program. The bill now heads back to the House of Representatives for consideration.

“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,” said Senator Baldwin. “While this bipartisan compromise is not perfect and it is not the legislation that I would have written on my own, I was proud to lead a bipartisan coalition here in the Senate that really kept up the pressure to get this done on behalf of students in Wisconsin and across America. And as a member of the HELP Committee, I remain committed to fighting on behalf of programs like Perkins as we explore a long-term solution to strengthening and improving federal supports for higher education. I call on our colleagues in the House to immediately take up and pass this legislation so students in Wisconsin and across America know that their elected representatives are committed to helping them build a stronger future for themselves and our country.”

“Today’s action by the Senate represents a significant victory for the students and families who are most in need of financial aid to make the possibility of pursuing and obtaining a UW System degree a reality. Perkins loans have annually provided approximately $29 million to 16,000 UW System students. We appreciate the leadership of Senator Baldwin and the support of her Senate colleagues to help reach a bipartisan agreement that will continue this critical program for two more years. We are also proud that the UW System could play a leading role nationally in advocating for a legislative solution,” said UW System President Ray Cross.

“On behalf of the thousands of incoming students who will now have access to the Perkins Loan program for two additional years, we applaud Sen. Baldwin for her leadership in working to achieve this bipartisan compromise. We look forward to working with members of the Wisconsin Congressional Delegation as Congress considers the future of federal financial aid programs as part of the next Higher Education Act," said UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca M. Blank.

WATCH: Video of Senator Baldwin's remarks on the Senate floor.

HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) thanked Senator Baldwin on the Senate floor for her work on the compromise, as well as her efforts on the bill recently passed into law aimed at fixing No Child Left Behind, "This is the second time in two weeks that she's played a role in an important bipartisan decision here on the floor of the Senate regarding education. She made a major contribution to our Elementary and Secondary Education Act and by her willingness to work in a bipartisan way with other Senators, whom she mentioned, we've been able to get a bipartisan result here." 

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. 

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.