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Extend federal Perkins student loan program, says Schumer

Sen. Charles Schumer speaks with students as he

Sen. Charles Schumer speaks with students as he calls on his Senate colleagues to immediately reauthorize and extend the federal Perkins loan program, at Molloy College in Rockville Centre on Friday, Oct. 23, 2015. Credit: Steve Pfost

Sen. Chuck Schumer called on his Senate colleagues Friday to reauthorize and extend the Federal Perkins Loan Program that benefits more than 500,000 students nationwide and provides at least $9.6 million in funding on Long Island.

The decades-old Perkins Loan Program provides low-interest loans to students who cannot borrow or afford more expensive private student loans. The House of Representatives unanimously approved the program's reauthorization, but the Senate allowed it to lapse on Sept. 30.

"Unfortunately and inexplicably, Congress failed to renew the Perkins loan," said Schumer, standing with Molloy College students in Rockville Centre. "It is going to hurt 55,000 students in New York State; $124 million in student aid will be gone. That's a lot of money helping a lot of kids get through college."

The Democrat is pushing the Senate to extend bipartisan legislation, the Higher Education Extension Act of 2015, for one year to prevent the program from stalling.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee, has objected to the extension of the program, saying a more simplified federal loan program is needed. An email to his office Thursday was not returned.

Schumer said another chance at renewal could come by including the program in the budget proposal to keep the federal government running past Dec. 11.

Perkins loans, which have existed since 1958, are believed to be the nation's oldest federal loan program.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the program provided about $1.7 billion in financial aid to students nationwide in the 2013-14 academic year, including more than $124.2 million to students attending New York colleges.

On Long Island, a survey of 11 colleges showed that more than 4,200 students receive such assistance, totaling more than $9.6 million. According to Schumer's office, Long Island University leads the number of students getting such assistance, with 858 students receiving more than $2 million, followed by 739 students at Farmingdale State College who have received more than $1.4 million. A total of 232 Molloy students received $421,344.

"We are really talking about those individuals who have income challenges," said Molloy College president Drew Bogner.

Schumer said because colleges and universities collect and service the loans through a revolving fund, the program already is self-sustaining and only needs a "sign-off" from the federal government.

The program provides low-interest federal student loans at the rate of 5 percent. An undergraduate student may be eligible to receive up to $5,500 per year; the total amount one can borrow is set at $27,500. A graduate student may be eligible to borrow up to $8,000 per year, with the total amount set at $60,000, including amounts borrowed as an undergraduate.


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