Lincoln, Pryor Outline Arkansas Priorities As Student Loan Reform Legislation Takes Shape

Washington – U.S. Senators Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor today outlined their Arkansas priorities for student loan reform legislation in a letter to Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP).  The committee is currently evaluating proposals in order to write a student loan reform bill.

Senators Lincoln and Pryor emphasized that proposed reforms should lead to savings that could be invested in students and used to expand access to higher education; however, these reforms should be undertaken in a way that does not disrupt services currently being provided to students or hinder their access to loans for the upcoming academic year. In addition, the changes should not significantly alter the meaningful role that non-profit state and local agencies have played in lending and servicing student loans in Arkansas.             

“As we consider transitioning from one student loan program to another, we have to consider that the financial aid application process for the 2010-2011 school year has already begun, and many schools in Arkansas have already prepared consumer information materials about financial aid programs and processes,” Lincoln said. “While there are steps we can and should take to capture savings in the way we originate and service student loans, we must also ensure that our schools are provided with the adequate resources and time to make any necessary adjustments.”

“There is no doubt student loan programs could be more effective and efficient for students and taxpayers,” Pryor said.  “As the Senate works toward this reform, we must fix what’s broken and leave in place what works.  At the same time, we need to be careful not to jeopardize our students’ short-term access to loans or services, especially at a time when more and more students are juggling financial hardship and rising college tuition.” 

The Arkansas Student Loan Authority (ASLA) has funded $1.4 billion in loans since the inception of the agency. Currently, 42,000 students have loans that are held and serviced by ASLA. In addition, the agency participated in more than 100 financial aid workshops and high school college fairs in 2009, and printed 30,000 “How to Pay for College” books on federal and state aid programs to be distributed to students. ASLA awards 25 $1,000 scholarships annually in an essay contest, and provides several college planning and funding resources on their Web site. They also administer a free scholarship search.
“Senator Lincoln and Senator Pryor are taking action to ensure that reliable access to financial aid for higher education remains available for Arkansas students,” said Tony Williams, Executive Director of the Arkansas Student Loan Authority. “We greatly appreciate their willingness to listen to the Arkansas higher education community and take a lead in Congress to address funding concerns for Arkansas students.”