Warner, Kaine urge Senate leadership to save student loan program

congressU.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today pressed Senate leaders to take up and pass legislation to reauthorize the Perkins Loan Program.

This critical lifeline for many low-income students expired on September 30, despite receiving a unanimous one-year, no-cost extension from the House of Representatives on September 28. Since its expiration, a bipartisan coalition of Senators has twice attempted to reauthorize the program with a “unanimous consent” request, but the Senate has yet to pass the bill.

The Perkins Loan Program is the nation’s oldest federal student loan program, has existed with broad bipartisan support since 1958 and has provided more than $28 billion in loans through almost 26 million awards to students in all 50 states. Perkins loans offer a five percent fixed interest rate, no origination fees, and a nine-month grace period. These reasonable, relatively low-dollar loans make college a reality for the lowest-income students who would otherwise turn to higher interest private loans or conclude that a college education is out of their reach. In the 2013-2014 academic year alone, the program helped more than 7,800 low-income students at more than three dozen Virginia colleges and universities fund their educations.

School Recipients
Advanced Technology Institute 2
University of Mary Washington 20
ECPI University 43
Marymount University 49
Randolph College 64
American National University 110
Emory & Henry College 66
Virginia Military Institute 103
Virginia State University 103
Mary Baldwin College 177
Virginia Wesleyan College 112
Sweet Briar College 73
Hollins University 109
Randolph – Macon College 141
Ferrum College 185
Hampden Sydney College 94
Old Dominion University 93
Longwood University 161
Lynchburg College 213
Averett University 113
Shenandoah University 101
Roanoke College 169
Northern Virginia Community College 133
Eastern Mennonite University 361
College of William & Mary 232
James Madison University 418
Radford University 163
Norfolk State University 230
Bridgewater College 446
Eastern Virginia Medical School 91
Washington and Lee University 129
George Mason University 211
Hampton University 266
University of Richmond 210
Virginia Commonwealth University 594
Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University 768
University of Virginia 1,255
Virginia Total 7,808

 Source: Office of Federal Student Aid

Sens. Warner and Kaine joined 52 colleagues – a bipartisan majority of the Senate – in sending a letter today to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Harry Reid urging them to act now to reauthorize the Perkins Loan Program. While both Senators support efforts to improve our student aid system as part of a comprehensive reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, a complete overhaul will not be completed in the immediate future. The Commonwealth’s neediest students deserve certainty and predictability in their financial planning in the meantime.

“There are many students who will be disadvantaged by the Senate’s inaction and the program’s expiration… Many Senators have proposals aimed at making our various federal student aid programs work better for students, parents, and institutions.  We look forward to discussing and debating ways to improve these important federal supports for higher education during this Congress,”wrote the Senators. “In the meantime, we should immediately take up and pass the House-passed extension to provide certainty to students and ensure that this important source of student financial assistance is not interrupted.”

Previously, Sens. Warner and Kaine were joined by U.S. Reps. Bobby Scott (D-VA-3), Gerry Connolly (D-VA-11), and Don Beyer (D-VA-8) in a Sept. 28 letter urging the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) to approve a one-year Perkins reauthorization.

The full text of today’s letter is below. A PDF of the signed letter is available here.


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