NAICU Washington Update

Even with Widespread Support, Congress Fails to Reauthorize Perkins Loan Program

October 06, 2015

Despite bi-partisan support, Congress failed to reauthorize the Perkins Loan program beyond its October 1, 2015 sunset date. As a result, incoming freshmen will be the first class since 1959 to finance its pursuit of higher education without the benefit of a Perkins Loan.

Leveraging Senate procedural rules, HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) effectively blocked legislation, unanimously passed in the House by voice vote, which would have extended the Perkins program for another year. In explaining his objection to the Perkins extension, Sen. Alexander argued that he favors a federal student aid portfolio consisting of “one grant and one loan,” and reiterated his commitment to general higher education simplification.

Earlier in the week, allies in the House of Representatives passed a bill (the Higher Education Extension Act of 2015) led by Reps. Mike Bishop (R-MI) and Mark Pocan (D-WI), which would have extended the Perkins program through October 1, 2016 by ending some of the grandfathering provisions within the program. The bill also would have reauthorized the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) and the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance until October 1, 2016. (NOTE: While NACIQI was reauthorized in a Continuing Resolution, the Advisory Committee was not.)

As the legislation moved to the Senate, a bipartisan coalition of senators spoke in favor of the Perkins program. Republican senators Susan Collins (ME), Rob Portman (OH), Kelly Ayotte (NH), and Ron Johnson (WI) were joined by Democratic colleagues Tammy Baldwin (WI), Robert Casey (PA), and Patty Murray (WA) on the floor to praise the Perkins Loan program and to call for its continuation beyond October 1, 2015.

On September 30, Sen. Baldwin made a motion to bring up the House-passed bill for consideration in the Senate. By the nature of Senate procedure, such a motion requires the unanimous consent of the entire Senate in order to proceed. However, Sen. Alexander objected to the motion and blocked the legislation.

Although failing to achieve unanimous consent in the Senate is a disappointing setback, the Perkins program could still be reauthorized. Student aid advocates plan to continue to work with both parties to push for its continuation.

Current Perkins recipients will be able to continue receiving their loans through graduation under guidance issued by the Department of Education. However, no new borrowers may be issued loans. We await further guidance from the Department of Education concerning the Perkins Loan federal contribution recall.

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