Wisconsin’s low-income students have lost a major source of college funding. After 57 years, the Federal Perkins Loan Program expired at midnight. The Republican-controlled House voted to extend the program, but the Senate rejected it with one dissenting vote. Wisconsin’s U.S. Senators wanted the program sustained.
Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) made a “unanimous consent request” to fund the loan program before the deadline. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who chairs the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, rejected that effort. Alexander has argued for the program’s elimination as part of an effort to simplify and streamline the federal government’s student loan programs.
Baldwin said she was “extremely disapponited” by Alexander’s action. “The fact that we just saw one Senator stand up and reject a bipartisan and commonsense measure to do just that is, frankly, a perfect example of why the American people are so upset with Washington,” Baldwin said.
Nearly 16,000 University of Wisconsin students received more than $20 million in need-based Perkins loans in the school year ending in mid-2014. UW President Ray Cross said the program made higher education more accessible and affordable for many. “We are grateful to Senators Baldwin and Johnson and Representative Pocan for advocating strongly for its continuance, and we will continue to work with our delegation and others in Congress to explore any alternative avenues to maintain the program,” Cross said in a statement.