Federal Relations

By Cynthia Littlefield, Vice President for Federal Relations, AJCU

Saving Perkins Loans
The undergraduate Perkins Loan program will cease on September 30, 2017 unless it is reauthorized by Congress. The graduate Perkins Loan program expired on December 31, 2016, and it does not appear likely that Congress will reinstate it. Over the years, many Members have said that it is the Federal government’s responsibility to help students obtain an undergraduate education, but not a graduate education. We are not sure whether this Congressional perspective can be reversed.

Representatives Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Elise Stefanik (R-NY) plan to introduce the Perkins Loan Extension Act, which would extend the authorization of the undergraduate Perkins Loan program for two years. Should this authorization occur, institutions of higher education would no longer be under pressure to return funds to the Federal government from the Perkins Loan program. Institutions could then continue to award Perkins Loans to deserving, needy students.

Why should Congress save Perkins Loans? It is a highly successful program that, for decades, has offered low-interest loans to students of need. After students graduate, they pay back the loans to their institutions, which, in turn, recycle those funds to new deserving students. As with other campus-based aid programs, such as the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program (SEOG) and Federal Work Study (FWS), institutions have to contribute 25% to the total in order to participate. Thus, institutions have “skin in the game” and have helped to contribute to the Perkins Loan program's success for decades.

Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Robert Portman (R-OH), and Susan Collins (R-ME) are but a few who have assisted in prior efforts to save Perkins Loans. AJCU will continue to focus on saving Perkins Loans, SEOG and FWS.

While there are higher education advocates who maintain that the “one-loan one-grant“ concept is the only good policy to choose for the future, the reality is that accepting this policy would mean total elimination of all campus-based aid in the Higher Education Act (HEA) Reauthorization. While we recognize the huge challenges ahead in trying to save these critical programs, we know that our students of need are counting on us to do so.

Finishing FY17 Appropriations
On Friday, April 28th, the Federal government will shut down at midnight unless Congress agrees to adopt an Omnibus bill or establish a Continuing Resolution (CR). AJCU hopes that Federal student aid programs continue to receive support, although we remain concerned about the possibility of Pell Reserve funds being used for other programs. We should have this information within the next 72 hours and will share it on the AJCU website.

Immigration Policy Still in Flux
While there have been assurances that the Trump Administration wants to preserve DACA (the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy), the Justice Department and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have reiterated the need for those who are here in the United States illegally to be deported. This is of little comfort to undocumented individuals, including those who are students on our Jesuit campuses. AJCU continues to work on these issues to protect our undocumented students and their families.