Collins, Portman introduce bill to preserve Perkins loan program before deadline

Working with urgency ahead of a Sept. 30 deadline, U.S. Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Rob Portman (R-OH) teamed up to introduce bipartisan legislation to extend the federal Perkins Loan Program for two years before the student loan program expires.

The oldest federal student loan program in the nation, Perkins loans provide low-interest loans to needy students. The campus-based financial aid program has provided more than $28 billion in loans since 1958 through almost 26 million awards to students across the country.

Unless the program is reauthorized, roughly a half million low-income students will lose access to that source of financial aid.

Collins said a two-year extension of the program would give students in Maine and across the United States the certainty needed to afford a college education.

“In Maine, more than 4,000 students received a Perkins Loan last year, providing nearly $8.6 million in aid,” Collins said. “The Perkins Loan Program serves as a critical resource for students to fill gaps beyond what is available through the Department of Education’s Direct Loan Program and a family’s ability to pay.”

Portman said an individual’s financial status should not limit their ability to pursue higher education.

“For years, the assistance of the Perkins Loan Program has helped low-income students attend college — oftentimes as the first generation of their family to do so,” Portman said. “Two years ago, Congress came together in a bipartisan way to extend this program. This legislation will extend those efforts and continue providing students the opportunity to achieve the American Dream.”

Collins and Portman were joined by U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Bob Casey (D-PA) in introducing the legislation. The four senators fought for extending the Perkins program for two years in a prior measure that the Senate passed in December 2015.