Perkins Loan discontinues

For many high school students thinking about college, the sticker price of higher education is a daunting number. College tuition may become even more alarming to some students due to the discontinuation of the Federal Perkins Loan, which became effective Sept. 30, 2015.

The Perkins Loan was a federal financial aid program, eligible to undergraduate and graduate students with exceptional financial need. This loan offers a 5 percent interest rate, and students are eligible to receive up to $5,500 dollars a year, depending on their need and whether or not their school offers this loan.

Last week, the United States Senate failed to extend the deadline of this Perkins Loan after a bipartisan effort — an agreement between both parties — was obstructed for the second time due to a filibuster.

Eric Addington, vice president for enrollment and financial aid, said that what makes this loan appealing is the fact that it does not require a co-signer or a credit check to receive it, and it is only offered to the students with the most financial need nationwide. Addington said 452 Concordia students have received Perkins Loan money for the 2015-16 school year, which adds up to $1 million to $1.5 million.

Tanner Knutson, president of SGA, said the continuation of the program was blocked by a single US senator by way of a filibuster.

“A single senator’s opinion is a terrible reason to discontinue something that so many students depend on to pay for their higher education,” Knutson said.

Knutson said that SGA heard of the potential discontinuation 48 hours before the Senate’s deadline. Knutson called a meeting immediately, and encouraged all SGA members to begin calling their senators to lobby for the program to be continued.

SGA hopes to “instruct [students] to reach out to elected officials,” Knutson said. “I think directly calling the offices of these elected officials will be impactful.”

Junior Samantha Zapzalka said the loan is crucial for her because it allowed her to attend a private school, like Concordia. She was informed of the discontinuation of the program from a variety of emails sent to students from the Office of Financial Aid and from President William Craft. Zapzalka said she and other students she has talked to are frustrated by the lack of voice they have in this issue, and wish there was more they could do to reach government officials.

“I don’t think they really have taken into account how much it can hurt people,” Zapzalka said.

Jess Christensen, assistant director of financial aid, led several informational meetings for Concordia students on how this change will impact them.

Students who have received funding from the Perkins Loan during the 2014-15 academic school year or before, are eligible to be grandfathered into the program until 2020. Freshmen or first-time receivers will not continue receiving the loan after this school year.

There are a few stipulations to remain eligible. Students must keep the same major and remain at the same institution.

“We’re kind of entering a new territory with this change, because this is the first time the [United States] Department of Education is coming down and regulating something by major,” Christensen said.

She encouraged students to visit the Office of Financial Aid with any questions or concerns.

Christensen also encouraged students to contact their congressional members.

“They [senators] need to hear from their constituents,” she said. “They need to hear real stories from real students about how important this program is for your education.”

Addington said that the Office of Financial Aid is doing their best to encourage students to write letters and make phone calls to their congressional representatives, as well as doing their own lobbying.

“The Office of Financial Aid and Concordia College have been lobbying for the continuation of this loan for years already,” Addington said. He went on to explain that Concordia has members on a number of state- and nation-wide committees to lobby for programs such as the Perkins Loan.

Addington also said that it is too early to tell if the discontinuation of the Perkins Loan will affect Concordia’s enrollment.

“It’s unfortunate because this decision is really hurting the students who need the most help,” Addington said. “There isn’t really another program out there like the Perkins Loan that will fill that void.”

Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York said in a press conference that the best chance for renewal may be to include the Perkins Loan in the next budget measure that will keep the federal government operating past Dec. 11.

This article was submitted by Garrett Horejsi, contributing writer.

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