Congress approves short-term funding measure, Perkins Loan program expires

On September 30, Congress approved a 10-week funding measure, known as a continuing resolution (CR), just in time to send it to President Obama for his signature before Fiscal Year 2016 began at midnight. Those actions avoided a government shutdown. 

The CR does not include the provision demanded by some Republicans to defund Planned Parenthood, the battle over which helped derail earlier approval of the CR. The funding of Planned Parenthood is among several issues—including raising the debt ceiling, extending expired and expiring tax provisions, and renewing highway funding—that will likely make the next round of FY16 budget negotiations even more difficult. There is still the possibility of a government shutdown when the CR expires on December 11.

Further complicating this fall’s budget negotiations was Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew’s announcement that the debt limit would be reached earlier than expected, around November 5. This accelerated timeline could pressure House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to seek agreement on a debt ceiling increase before he retires from Congress on October 30.

Meanwhile, President Obama, Speaker Boehner, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have begun discussing a possible two-year budget deal, designed both to avoid a government shutdown in December and prevent a replay of funding battles right before the November 2016 elections. 

Perkins Loan program expires

Authorization for the Perkins Loan program expired at midnight September 30. Although the House approved a one-year extension of the Perkins Loan program on September 29, the measure was blocked in the Senate the following day by Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN). The Chairman objected to extending the program through unanimous consent.

Earlier, a bipartisan group of 27 Senators urged Chairman Alexander to support the House legislation, but he has said he wants to sunset the program and possibly consolidate all federal student loan programs into one.

Also allowed to expire on September 30 was the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, a group that has advised the Department of Education and Congress on student aid issues. Authorization for the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity was renewed in the FY16 CR.

Higher education groups, including the Association of American Universities and the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, supported the renewal of the Perkins program and are evaluating whether to push for its reinstatement under the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. More than 2,500 UO students depend upon nearly $3 million in Perkins aid, a program that benefits with lower income borrowers with lower cost federal loans. The University of Oregon advocated to renew the Perkins Loan program. As part of these efforts, the UO captured the story of one UO Perkins Loan recipient in this video: