Senators push for renewal of the Perkins Loan program

On October 29, a bipartisan group of 54 US senators, including Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) asking them to take up the House-passed extension of the Perkins Loan program (H.R. 3594). The program authorization expired on October 1. As a result of the lapse, says the letter, “…thousands of current and future students face uncertainty and hundreds of institutions are struggling to find another way to help their neediest students afford their education.”

Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) Committee Chair Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) has opposed extension of the program because he wants Perkins to be considered in the context of the Higher Education Act. The ranking member of the committee, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) said she has "not heard or seen any sign of a change of heart" from the HELP Committee chair as proponents keep up the drumbeat for extending Perkins. But Baldwin said colleagues in the Senate are "increasingly recognizing that Higher Education Act reauthorization is not something that's going to be moved in the next weeks, or even a couple of months." She, along with many of her colleagues, argue that letting the Perkins program expire will harm students in the meantime.