Senator Schumer Pushes for Perkins Loan Program

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Over 55,000 college students from across New York State could be in jeopardy of losing over $124 million in federal loans in the next year, due to the expiration of the Federal Perkins Loan Program. The Perkins Loan Program assists low income students and their families with low-interest loans, but recently did not make it through Congress, leaving the fate of students who benefit from these programs hanging in the balance.

On Oct. 14, New York State Senator Chuck Schumer addressed a crowd outside Grewen Hall discussing his plan to extend the Federal Perkins Loan Program, which would prevent the 314 Le Moyne students currently benefitting from the program from losing their combined $362,106 in loans.

Standing behind Senator Schumer were representatives from a number of Central New York schools, including Syracuse University, St. Bonaventure University, Clarkson University, and SUNY Oswego. These representatives stood beside Le Moyne President Linda LeMura, as Schumer discussed his support of higher education and programs like the Perkins loans.

“I don’t know what we would do without you,” said Dr. LeMura on Senator Schumer’s commitment to higher education. “The Perkins Loan Program is a vital component that helps ensure that higher education is accessible for all students. We must do all that we can to push Congress to pass this legislation.”

In the 2013-2014 school year, Perkins loans allowed 3,097 students at Syracuse University and 98 students at Upstate Medical University. The program not solely supports students in New York, but nationwide.

The Perkins Loan Programs was originally passed in 1958, and provides students who have a low to moderate income with low-interest loans. The program is meant to support families and students who can’t afford private student loans, and is given out by colleges based on need.

Under the program, eligible undergraduate students can borrow up to $5,500 dollars a year at a 5 percent interest rate. Graduate students can also receive up to $8,000 per year.  

Despite the program’s 57 years of success, congress allowed the program to expire in September, leaving students who benefit from the program in deep water. While the extension of the program was passed unanimously in the House of Representatives, it was not extended by the Senate.

“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.”

Student Government Representative and Intern at Senator Schumer’s office, Will Brown says that the issue of getting these loans extended is a critical issue.

“At a time where economic inequality is widening our country, there is the possibility that funding for higher education is being taken away from the students who need it most,” said Brown. “Providing young adults with the opportunity to go to college, whether it be community college or a four-year program, is one of the vital components to higher wages, shrinking the economic and social inequality gap, and bringing jobs back to the United States from overseas.”

Senators who are not in favor of the extension, such as Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander, say that the money could be better spent on Pell grants, which is money from the federal government that does not have to be repaid. Others believe that there are more effective loan programs, and are therefore drafting their own legislation.

“I would like to be optimistic and say, yes, the program will be renewed, but we all know how the political climate is at the moment,” said Brown. “The looming budget showdown in December will be where the issue plays out.  As a student, it would be a shame for partisan bickering to get in the way of funding students’ education.”

Before leaving Le Moyne, Senator Schumer did leave students with a promise: “I pledge to get these loans restored.”