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The Perkins Student Loan Program Expired On September 30th, Jeopardizing The Education Of Students Across the Country Who Rely On The Program To Attend College

The House of Representatives Passed an Extension Unanimously; Now, Schumer Will Call On Senate Republicans To Take Up And Immediately Pass Extension Of The Perkins Loan Program

Schumer: With College Costs Skyrocketing, We Must Renew Perkins Loan Program That Is Vital Lifeline For Thousands Of Struggling Students 

Standing at the SUNY New Paltz Atrium in Ulster County, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today called on his Senate colleagues to immediately reauthorize and extend the Federal Perkins Loan program. Schumer said in a time when college costs are skyrocketing and students are straining under massive debt, it does not make sense to cut off a vital federal student loan program for those with financial need.

“With the cost of college continuing to increase, Congress should be doing more, not less, to make college affordable,” said Schumer. “That’s why I am urging my colleagues in the Senate to extend the Higher Education Extension Act of 2015, for one year to prevent the Perkins Loan program stalling any longer.”

The Perkins Loan Program provides low-interest loans to students who cannot borrow or afford more expensive private student loans. Specifically, the program aids over half a million students nationwide with financial need by providing fixed interest rates and loan forgiveness options. Schumer said this program provides $120 million in aid to New York colleges, including students who attend SUNY New Paltz in Ulster County and Orange County Community College, as well as other schools throughout the Hudson Valley, like Mount St. Mary College in Newburgh and Sullivan County Community College.

Schumer explained that, since its inception in 1958, the Federal Perkins Loan program has successfully helped students across the country access higher education. The program has helped make college more affordable to undergraduate and graduate students demonstrating financial need. It does this by providing low-interest federal student loans at the low rate of 5 percent. An undergraduate student may be eligible to receive up to $5,500 per year with the total amount one can borrow set at $27,500. A graduate student may be eligible to borrow up to $8,000 per year with the total amount one can borrow set at $60,000 per year; this includes amounts borrowed as an undergraduate. According to the State University of New York (SUNY) System, the Perkins Loan program provided 539,444 college students with aid last year, including 55,958 in New York. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the Perkins program provided roughly $1.7 billion in financial aid to students nationwide during the 2013-2014 academic year, including approximately $124,215,521 to students attending New York colleges.

Despite this program’s success in making college more affordable to low- to moderate- income students over the last 57 years, Schumer explained the Senate allowed the program to lapse on September 30, 2015. Schumer said there is no excuse for the Senate to not extend this program, especially when the House of Representatives has already passed the extension unanimously. This could leave roughly 1,700 colleges and universities nationwide, including 122 institutions across New York State, along with more than 55,000 students in the lurch this year if this program is not restored. One third of Perkins Loan Program students’ families earn less than $30,000 per year. Schumer explained that because this program provides these low-interest loans for students who typically cannot borrow or afford more expensive private student loans, it could jeopardize the college education of many students across NY and the country if this program is not reauthorized and extended.

In the Hudson Valley, there are dozens of colleges and universities that rely on the Perkins Loan program to help make higher education affordable for students. Schumer pointed to four examples just in the Orange, Ulster and Sullivan County region as evidence that this program has been successful in the past and must be extended. SUNY New Paltz in Ulster County relies on a disbursement of $469,406 to provide 168 recipients with the aid needed to attend college. Orange County Community College (SUNY Orange) relies on disbursements of $27,440 to provide 8 students with the financial help to afford college. Mount Saint Mary College, located in the City of Newburgh in Orange County, provides 46 recipients with the aid to afford college with the help of $137,000 in disbursements and Sullivan County Community College awards 13 recipients with college aid, with the help of $53,963 in disbursements.

Schumer said that because colleges and universities collect and service the loans through a revolving fund, the program is already self-sustaining and simply needs “sign-off” from the federal government to continue making college affordable for students. With the exception of reimbursements paid to schools when graduates qualify for loan forgiveness – often due to entering a public service oriented field like teaching, law enforcement or nursing – federal government has not appropriated funds for the Perkins Loan Program since 2005, making it a low-cost federal program with immense benefits to students.

Schumer said the Senate must extend the Perkins Loan Program before it is too late and schools begin seeing students withdraw from colleges and universities across NY State and the country due to uncertainty as to where their next tuition payment will come from. The House of Representatives has already, unanimously, passed a bill that would extend this program, and Schumer said it is time his colleagues in the Senate do the same. Schumer is pushing the Senate to extend bipartisan legislation, the Higher Education Extension Act of 2015, for one year to prevent the Perkins Loan program from stalling.

While the program expired on September 30, Schumer said Congress must act soon, before second semester tuition payments are due and students and colleges alike are left in the lurch. Students who receive a Perkins loan during the 2015-2016 academic year or before and remain in the same academic program will be eligible to be grandfathered into the program and receive loans through ‎the end of their program, or up to 5 years. 

Schumer was joined by SUNY New Paltz President Donald Christian, SUNY Orange President Dr. Kristine Young and Ulster County Executive Mike Hein. 

“The Perkins Federal Loan program is a critical form of financial aid for hundreds of our students,” said SUNY New Paltz President Donald P. Christian.  “We typically award more than $500,000 in Perkins aid annually to students who are from middle and low-income backgrounds.  For these students, Perkins fills the gap that exists after all other aid has been exhausted.  It is the reason they can continue to sustain their enrollment at the College. We very much appreciate Senator Schumer’s staunch advocacy for an extension of this program that matters so deeply for our students and the New Paltz community.”

“Over the years, Perkins Loans have been among the many tools available to SUNY Orange students seeking to fund their college education,” says Dr. Kristine Young, SUNY Orange president. “Senator Schumer has said in the past that ‘a college education is a critical resource to ensuring our young men and women have the skills they need to compete in a 21st Century global economy.’ I could not agree more and today, perhaps more than ever, is it important that we provide programs, both straightforward and creative, that assist prospective students and their families in accessing higher education.”

“I want to once again thank Senator Schumer for his tireless advocacy, this time on behalf of college students and their hard-working families,” said Ulster County Executive Mike Hein. “The importance of access to higher education cannot be understated, it is the prerequisite to obtaining the American Dream and has the unique ability of changing the trajectory of so many lives. I commend Senator Schumer for working to restore federal funding for the Perkins Loan Program at a time when many families across the country are faced with ever increasing college tuition costs.”

Laura L. Anglin, president of the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities in New York, said “Perkins Loans, and all campus-based aid programs, provide students with the additional financial support they need to earn a higher education. It is more important than ever to preserve and provide adequate funding for the array of federal student aid programs that offer today’s students an opportunity to acquire the knowledge and skills that the nation’s workforce requires. We are grateful to Senator Schumer and members of New York’s Congressional delegation for working to extend this critically important source of student aid. The more than 82,000 students in New York who received Perkins Loans last year are counting on this bipartisan and national effort to reauthorize and support this program.”

SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher said, “The long-term viability of the Perkins Loan Program is critical to the ability of students to access low-interst loans and avoid high-risk alternatives such as private loans or credit cards. The State University of New York proudly supports federal efforts to continue this important program for our students, and I commend Senator Schumer for his continued leadership in this area.”

According to SUNY New Paltz, in any given year, the school typically awards between $500,000 and $700,000 in Perkins Loans to roughly 200 students. Of the total dollars spent, approximately half goes to Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) students. EOP provides access, academic support and financial aid to students who show promise for succeeding in college but who may not have otherwise been offered admission. The rest of the funding is awarded to non-EOP students who have unmet need in their financial aid packages and who do not have viable options for covering their tuition and associated costs. According to SUNY New Paltz, the Perkins fills a critical gap that exists for many students after their grants and Federal Direct Loans have been applied.