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Pocan’s Bill to Reauthorize Perkins Loan Program Passes House

Sep 28, 2015
Press Release
Pocan Applauds Bipartisan Effort to Ensure Students have Access to Federal Financial Aid

Washington, D.C - U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) gave the following remarks on the House Floor in support of the Higher Education Extension Act of 2015, H.R. 3594, which passed the House this afternoon. The bill, introduced by Reps. Pocan and Rep. Mike Bishop (R-MI), reauthorizes the Federal Perkins Loans program for one year before it is set to expire on September 30th. The Federal Perkins Loan is a need-based loan, which fosters access to higher education for low-income students by providing low interest loans to students in need. A video of Rep. Pocan’s remarks can be found here.

“I rise today in support of H.R. 3549, the Higher Education Extension Act. And I would like my colleague Mr. Bishop and my colleagues Mrs. Slaughter, Mr. Messer and Ranking Member Scott for their leadership on this issue.

This bill would extend the Perkins Loan Program for one year. Perkins Loans are need-based loans which foster access to higher education for low-income students by providing low interest loans to students in need.

Colleges and Universities tailor the program to best fit borrowers’ and institutions’ situations. Perkins is a risk-sharing program with institutions contributing one-third of their students’ awards. This “ownership interest” also contributes to the successful management of this vital program.

We have only TWO days before the Perkins Loans program is set to expire so we must act immediately.

Since its inception in 1958, over $28 billion dollars in loans have been made to students through almost 26 million aid awards. Perkins Loans borrowers are predominantly from lower income families and are often the first in their family to attend college. Perkins Loans have a set interest rate of 5 percent, which begins to accrue 9 months after the borrower ceases to be a student. However this program has not been reauthorized since 2009.

Besides making higher education accessible for low-income students, this program serves as an incentive for people who wish to go into public service by offering targeted loan cancellations for specific progression in areas of national need including teaching, nursing, and law enforcement.

Earlier this year, I introduced a bipartisan resolution in support of Perkins Loans with Congressman Messer, H. Res. 294 with 56 cosponsors. My colleague, Rep. Louise Slaughter, a leader on this issue, authored a letter with more than 90 bipartisan signatures in support of this important program. Over 33 groups and higher educational institutions have supported this bill’s reauthorization.

Bottom line: The Perkins Loans program has helped millions of students and families struggling to find a way to pay for college. I applaud my colleagues across the aisle, specifically a thank you to Mr. Bishop, for helping to ensure students have access to the federal financial aid they need to make college accessible and affordable. I urge support of this bill.

I reserve the balance of my time.”