As a high school senior, the first time I looked at my financial aid package I chuckled. “They might as well have rejected me,” I thought to myself.
Some would call it cynicism, but if you were in my shoes — living with a single mother who had just been recently laid off — foregoing college because of cost was not cynicism but a bleak reality you had to accept.
I wondered how they had come to their conclusion. They knew my family could not afford to fork out the thousands of dollars they were requesting, and yet there it was. Even with an expected family contribution of zero, I had to figure out a way to pay for my education. Of course, there was always the option of loans.
I had heard about these things they call loans. No forgiveness, compounding interest and didn’t Obama finish paying his only after he entered the Senate? No, this was not an option. I would apply for scholarships, I would get a job and most of all I would not take out loans. I would squeeze my money so tight that even Ebenezer Scrooge would take a knee in protest.
However, there’s a thing called life, and it happened to me.
“I also know that these students are not lazy ingrates seeking handouts from the government, but are in fact hard-working students navigating a tough socioeconomic background that is not of their choosing.”
A few months into my academic career — in spite of my vow — I found myself taking out loans. This was after working 2 jobs, receiving a scholarship and budgeting my money. As I signed my Perkins loan acceptance form, I was reassured that this loan was better than a lot of others out there because it had a low interest rate and would not accrue interest while I was school.
I was told that it was a loan designed for students in my situation. I ran the numbers and realized that I’d be able to save some of my future earnings by picking this loan over others.
I felt a sense of relief. The kind that I know is felt by over 35,000 students across California that take advantage of this loan. Or the 16,000 within the University of California system.
I also know that these students are not lazy ingrates seeking handouts from the government, but are in fact hard-working students navigating a tough socioeconomic background that is not of their choosing.
I know this not just because I am one, but because I see them every day as a financial aid peer advisor. I walk them through their financial aid and give them that same reassurance that was given to me a year prior.
That is why I am outraged to hear that the Perkins loan is being discontinued — because I know the amount of good it has done for low income students. I’m not the only who believes this.
According to the UC Office of the President, the Federal Perkins Loan Program Extension Act of 2017 (H.R. 2482), bipartisan legislation that extends the program for a period of two years, currently has 226 cosponsors, and is supported by more than 30 education organizations and 80 universities, including the UC.
The office also predicts that if it is discontinued, students will have to take riskier loans despite the fact that it wouldn’t cost the government any more money to extend it.
Therefore, it begs the question; after all the hurdles low-income students have hopped to get to higher institutions, are we really trying to punish them for trying to earn their portion of the American dream?
By ending the Perkins Loan on Sept. 30 and not voting to extend it in Congress, we are answering yes.