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EOP to Congress: Renew Perkins Program Set to Expire at Month’s End

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Students, university leaders, faculty, and Congressman Paul Tonko (D-20) were among those assembled on Tuesday afternoon at a rally advocating the renewal of the Federal Perkins Loan Program.

The Perkins loan, a five percent interest educational loan for low income students with exceptional financial need, is set to expire next Saturday, unless legislation is passed to renew it. If the loan expires, thousands of students across the country may be faced with an extra $1,500 to $2,000 bill for the 2018-19 academic year.

Speakers set up a podium in front of the Campus Center, urging students to contact their representatives and “save Perkins” as one student’s sign read. The rally was organized in part by student members of the Educational Opportunity Program Student Administrative Council (ESAC), headed by President Karla Silva.

Silva said the rally was hosted to inform the Albany community about the problem, and inspire them towards action.

“People just did not know about the Perkins loan, and the Perkins loan directly affected a lot of the students at this school,” she said.

For Cindy Ramales, the Perkins loan paved a road which neither she nor her family had ever traveled on. Being a first-generation college student, she said, put a lot of pressure on her to live up to family expectations.

Without Perkins, Cindy would not have been able to attend the University at Albany. Additionally, she hopes the Perkins Loan could help her younger brother afford the cost of attending college.

“It’s not just me; it’s future generations of children that are going to be affected by this,” she said.

Meanwhile, Jason Delisle, a resident fellow at free-enterprise think tank American Enterprise Institute, argued earlier this month in The Hill that the Perkins loan is yet another layer of needless complexity in the already confusing world of student loans.

For example, students only qualify for the maximum $5,500 of Perkins money after already exhausting the maximum $5,500 of William Ford Direct Student Loan Program (direct loans) money.

Delisle writes that Congress could simply raise the direct loans cap by $5,500 for either all students or for students with large financial need.

In addition, he argues that Perkins loan legislation stiffs students of Income-Based Repayment benefits which are available to direct loan recipients, and that the requirement that Perkins loan payments must be made to students’ individual colleges needlessly complicates students’ monthly payments to the government.

SUNY supports Perkins and any Congressional Act to renew it. In a May press release, SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher said, “The State University of New York proudly supports the Perkins Loan Extension Act, which would ensure continued financial aid for more than 14,000 of our own students and hundreds of thousands more across the country.”

Should Perkins expire at the end of the month, UAlbany will actually owe the federal government  money which Congress appropriated to the school when Perkins was started.

“The students are go-getters; they rise to the occasion,” said Maritza Martinez, assistant dean of EOP.

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Joe Hoffman is the managing editor for the Albany Student Press.

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