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:
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.