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Schumer at UAlbany: Congress has Unwisely Allowed Perkins Student Loan Program to Expire

Senator Says its Termination Jeopardizes the Education of a Half Million Students Across the Country Who Rely on it to Attend College

ALBANY, N.Y. (November 2, 2015) — University at Albany president Robert J. Jones, in solidarity with area college presidents, stood with New York State Senator Chuck Schumer today as he called on his Senate colleagues to immediately reauthorize and extend the Federal Perkins Loan program.

Participants included Capital Region institutions whose students depend on Perkins loans including Brother Edward Coughlin, president of Siena College; Alicia Ouelette, president and dean of Albany Law School; Drew Matonak, president of HVCC; John Ebersole, president of Excelsior College.

There were also representatives from RPI, Union College, the College of Saint Rose, Schenectady County Community College, Columbia Greene Committee College, and The Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities in attendance.

“Increasing access to a quality, affordable higher education is at the cornerstone of our mission at the University at Albany,” said UAlbany President Robert J. Jones. “Failing to restore the Perkins Loan Program, which has for decades helped thousands of high need UAlbany students achieve their educational goals, would be nothing short of disaster. We support Senator Schumer’s fight to extend this critical financial resource.”

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 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. There is no excuse for the Senate to not extend this program, especially when the House of Representatives has already passed the extension unanimously, he said.

“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.”

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 five years.

Schumer said this program provides $120 million in aid to New York colleges, including students who attend Capital Region schools like the University at Albany, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Siena College, Albany Medical College and others, including:

  • The University Albany relies on a disbursement of $2,601,714 to provide 1,719 recipients with the aid needed to attend college.
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute relies on a disbursement of $5,227,970 to provide 2,121 recipients with the aid needed to attend college.
  • Albany Medical College relies on a disbursement of $2,858,216 to provide 379 recipients with the aid needed to attend college.
  • Siena College relies on a disbursement of $358,000 to provide 368 recipients with the aid needed to attend college.
  • SUNY College of Agriculture & Technology at Cobleskill relies on a disbursement of $351,871 to provide 300 recipients with the aid needed to attend college.
  • Union College relies on a disbursement of $441,976 to provide 144 recipients with the aid needed to attend college.
  • Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences relies on a disbursement of $431,836 to provide135 recipients with the aid needed to attend college.
  • Albany Law School relies on a disbursement of $912,110 to provide 121 recipients with the aid needed to attend college.
  • College of Saint Rose relies on a disbursement of $275,764 to provide 112 recipients with the aid needed to attend college.
  • Skidmore College relies on a disbursement of $266,560 to provide 110 recipients with the aid needed to attend college.Sage Colleges relies on a disbursement of $136,975 to provide 74 recipients with the aid needed to attend college.

Perkins Loan Program:

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, particularly considering 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.

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.

Schumer, along with 54 of his Senate colleagues, also signed a letter authored by Senator Tammy Baldwin [D-WI] asking the leaders of both parties to bring this legislation to the Senate floor and pass this one-year extension of the Perkins Loan Program before the end of this calendar year.

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