Press "Enter" to skip to content

Perkins Loans Help Thousands of South Dakotans, So John Thune Letting Program Die

Here’s something else John Thune isn’t getting done in the Senate: Perkins Loans. This financial aid program provides $1.2 billion in low-interest loans to over half a million college students nationwide with the greatest financial needs. In South Dakota, Perkins Loans provide nearly $7 million for nearly 4,000 students.

But the Perkins Loan program expires at the end of this month, and Senator Thune can’t get his leadership to stop playing games with the manufactured Planned Parenthood faux-scandal and fund the government, let alone take care of low-income college students. Senator Thune seems content to let Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) kill the program, acceding to Alexander’s claim that helping half a million low-income students pay for college “provides little benefit to students.” (Yeah, sure—just tell them all to go work blue-collar jobs in Sioux Falls instead!) Of course, Senator Thune apparently can’t get Senator Alexander’s S. 108 moving, either.

Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and 94 other Representatives signed a letter this month urging reauthorization of the 57-year-old Perkins Loan program. Our Congresswoman Kristi Noem didn’t sign on to that letter, even though she is co-sponsoring a resolution in the House expressing support for continuing Perkins Loans. One would thus think that Rep. Noem believes the Whereases offered in that resolution in support of the program:

Whereas the Perkins Loan Program is the Nation’s longest running Federal student loan program, created in 1958 as the National Defense Student Loan Program and later called the National Direct Loan Program;

Whereas Perkins Loans are efficient, need-based, low-interest loans that serve 500,000 low-income college students with high need at some 1,500 colleges and universities each year;

Whereas Perkins Loans have favorable terms for students; for example, interest is not charged while students are in school, the interest rate is low and fixed, and borrowers may have all or part of their Perkins Loans cancelled if they undertake certain public service jobs for one to five years;

Whereas participating schools share the risk of the Perkins Loan Program because they provide a one-third match to Federal capital contributions, and loans are made using funds repaid by previous borrowers;

Whereas Perkins Loans features the human touch of campus-based servicing, which allows on-campus administrators to provide Perkins borrowers with one-on-one service;

Whereas Perkins loans have made higher education possible for millions of Americans; and

Whereas without Perkins Loans, thousands of Americans will lose the chance at higher education and a better life: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives strongly supports the continuation of the Perkins Loan Program in order to provide educational opportunities to future generations of students who need low-cost financing to make their dreams of higher education possible [H.Res. 294, introduced 2015.06.03].

But Noem and the rest of our delegation can’t just do the right thing. They have to get bogged down in slogans that really disguise their misplaced focus on whacking assistance to the poor while ignoring abuses by the rich:

Noem Thune Rounds Monkeys

South Dakota’s congressional delegates, Sens. Mike Rounds and John Thune and Rep. Kristi Noem, said they sought to streamline the process of applying for federal aid and loans to fund higher education. None said if they would vote to maintain Perkins loans, though Noem co-sponsored a bill that would continue the loan program.

“The current patchwork of programs is unnecessarily confusing and can even discourage young people – especially first-generation college goers – from advancing their education,” Noem said in a statement [Dana Ferguson and Patrick Anderson, “Trying to Bridge the Gap: SD’s Struggle in Higher Ed,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2015.09.12].

Thousands of South Dakota students about to lose access to loans that may make the difference between their getting a college degree or not, and Senator Thune says and does nothing. Thanks, John… for giving us all the more reason to elect someone else to actually work for South Dakota.

P.S.: The Board of Regents announced yesterday that enrollment at South Dakota’s public universities remains stuck on a six-year plateau. A minor downtick in Northern’s enrollment has NSU president James Smith jumping up and down about the importance of attracting more students to Aberdeen.


  1. MD 2015-09-23

    We wouldn’t have to worry as much about those programs if we had a strong state bank like the Bank of North Dakota. Able to consistently turn a profit back to the state while providing some of the best student loan interest rates in the country. Bank of North Dakota student loans have the same fixed interest rate (for ND residents or those that attend an ND school) as the Federal Perkins Loan program.

    Since moving to ND, Ive found that SD and ND don’t really get along very well, South Dakota needs to look at some of the things that North Dakota is doing right and implement them, and I am not talking about finding oil.

  2. 96Tears 2015-09-23

    Killing a loan (not a grant) program which enables everyday South Dakota youth to attend and stay in college is stupid. When will John Thune start representing our state instead of his personal political agenda as Washington’s third most powerful Senator? All that power means nothing if he’s impotent on a student loan program and panders to extremists.

    The Obstructionist in Chief, indeed.

  3. jerry 2015-09-23

    Tehran John’s little ones will not need a Perkins loan as their padre has been paid off by the billionaire class. He is out of touch with anything other than the pieces of silver he is paid to look the other way, a perfect fit for South Dakota voters who all hate Obama.

  4. mike from iowa 2015-09-23

    I didn’t see any benefit(billions of bucks) for the koch bros. That must be why wingnuts won’t support this program.

  5. Porter Lansing 2015-09-23

    Sodak might as well have elected Grover Norquist.

  6. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-09-23

    . . . Alexander’s claim that helping half a million low-income students pay for college “provides little benefit to students.”

    Well that’s just a stupid claim on the face of it. Does he listen to himself? And Jumpshot Jesus agrees with that? Doesn’t say much for him. (Who used to call Thune ‘Jumpshot Jesus?’ Doug Wiken?)

    Anyway, Jerry is probably right about JJ’s motivation.

  7. scott 2015-09-23

    Are Kristi’s kids going to college, or are they going to votech to be welders like Gov. Daugard wishes they would?

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-09-23

    Funny how those words sound silly when we point out what they literally mean, isn’t it, Deb?

    Scott, both of Rep. Noem’s daughters are at college.

  9. Roger Beranek 2015-09-23

    Continuing to pump money into subsidizing the income of colleges and universities through the back door of “helping” students has always been a bad idea. If rather see something closer to the earned income credit replace all income sensitive lands and grants. It should not be tied to the expenses of school.

  10. Porter Lansing 2015-09-24

    As hard as it is to swallow the fact is that conservatives don’t like education. Education means changing. They’re fully content to take what they know now, commit no new brain cells to anything but new gun models and spend the rest of their unfulfilled angry lives trying to stop new things.

  11. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-09-24

    How else do we help students go to college, Roger B, if not by helping them pay their bills? Are you saying something like EITC, paid directly to young people and not their schools, would insulate the money from the tuition increases subsidies may cause?

  12. Kathy 2015-09-24

    I know I could not afford to go to college, even as a non-traditional student, without the help of financial aid. Granted, because I’m over the age of 24, I qualify for more “free” money (as in I don’t have to pay it back), but the bulk of how I’m paying for school is through student loans. We can’t tell people that they must get an education to better themselves and then make it nearly impossible for them to do it.

  13. Roger Beranek 2015-09-27

    Yes, I think having an EITC available for students that would not adjust to the cost the schools imposed, would mean the school choosing to raise tuition would be eating directly into money the student would otherwise have for other things, and pushing them to reconsider other schools. That might help pressure those schools to keep that tuition under control to avoid driving away students. it’s a good compromise to continue to encourage higher education while fighting the warped market that is higher ed.

Comments are closed.