Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) spoke at the 2015 AJCU Federal Relations Network Conference, organized by AJCU Vice President for Federal Relations Cynthia Littlefield (right).    

Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) spoke at the 2015 AJCU Federal Relations Network Conference, organized by AJCU Vice President for Federal Relations Cynthia Littlefield (right).



Saving Perkins Loans

Last October, the U.S. Department of Education extended the Perkins Loan Program for one year. Unfortunately, the General Education Policy Act (GEPA) does not allow for another year of extension, and on October 1, 2015, the program’s revolving fund would have to be recalled, thus ending the Perkins Loan Program.

In anticipation of the recall, the Campus-Based Aid Coalition (formerly known as the Perkins Loan Working Group, which AJCU organized in 2009), met regularly to strategize and negotiate with Members of Congress and their staff. Over the summer, Representative Louise Slaughter (D-CT) sent around a Dear Colleague letter with 95 signatures from both sides of the aisle supporting Perkins Loans. In addition, Representatives Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Luke Messer (R-IN) introduced a Perkins Resolution that would extend the program for one year. In September, with one month to go, H.R. 294 was introduced to push a bipartisan extension of Perkins Loans.

The House waited until the week of the deadline to bring Perkins Loans under suspension, which meant there could be no objections. On September 28th, the Perkins Resolution came up on the Floor and passed under Suspension. 

The drama then switched to the Senate side. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) was supportive of extending the Perkins Loan Program and worked behind the scenes to obtain support from Senate HELP Committee Chairman, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) for the Resolution. When the Resolution was brought up on the Senate Floor, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) was the lead, followed by Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Rob Portman (R-OH), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), and Susan Collins (R-ME). But, Senator Alexander opposed the Resolution citing the high interest rate of 5% and no IBR (Income Based Repayment). The Unanimous Consent (UC) failed because of the one objection. 

After the defeat, meetings were held within days with supporters on Capitol Hill who articulated a strong desire to continue fighting for Perkins Loans. This remains a fluid situation, but at present, there is an effort to have another UC for Perkins Loans brought up on the Floor. 

Ted Mitchell, Under Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, continues to insist that this recall will be a slow process led by the Department over a number of years. Jesuit institutions are encouraged to continue to dialogue with Senators and Members to save Perkins Loans and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG) program.

AJCU Federal Relations Conference: October 7-8, 2015

Earlier this month, we hosted the eighteenth AJCU Federal Relations Conference, and joined members of the Committee for Education Funding (CEF) for their Legislative Conference and Gala. The CEF Conference featured several panels, including one with Congressional staff from the House budget and authorizing committees. Representative G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Ranking Member on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, H&HS and Education, also spoke about civil rights and funding challenges for higher education.

The CEF Gala was a great success, attended by 500 education advocates, officials, Congressional staff and supporters. Awards were given to Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY), Ranking Member of the Full Committee on House Appropriations; FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel for her efforts to secure $1.5 billion in E-Rate Reductions; and John Forkenbock, former executive director of the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools (NAFIS).

The AJCU Federal Relations Conference was attended by over 30 representatives from 20 AJCU institutions. Two new Members, Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Member of the Senate HELP Committee, and Representative Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), Member of the House Education and Workforce Committee, were featured speakers. Attendees had an eye-opening conversation on the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) with key Congressional staff including Bob Moran, higher education specialist with Senator Alexander on the HELP Committee; Jennifer Prescott representing Chairman John Kline’s (R-MN) House Education and Workforce Committee; and Jared Bass, Minority on the House Education and Workforce Committee, representing Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA). This discussion realized continued friction and difference of opinion on the “One-Grant, One-Loan” model with insistence on eliminating Perkins Loans.

It should be noted that the AJCU Conference was held in the U.S. Capitol building during the doomed Republican Caucus meeting where Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) declared that he would not be running for Speaker of the House. News would float into our meeting with each new speaker about the status of this historic announcement.

For photos from the 2015 AJCU Federal Relations and CEF Conferences and Gala, please click here.