#TBT: Portman Against Perkins Before He Was For It

Ohio Students Portman Touts  Never Would Have Received Perkins under His Plan

COLUMBUS – U.S. Sen. Rob Portman has gone to great lengths to tout his support for the recently expired Perkins Loan Program now that he’s up for re-election. There’s just one problem: Portman himself first proposed eliminating funding for the Perkins Loan Fund in 2007 as Budget Director for President George W. Bush.

  • In a floor speech yesterday, Portman went so far as to highlight stories of specific Ohio students, saying, “Last year more than 25,000 Ohio students received financial aid through Perkins, including 3,000 young people at Kent State, over 1,700 students at The Ohio State University in Columbus.”

  • What Portman failed to mention is that not a single one of those students would have received a Perkins loan if Portman had gotten his way in 2007.

“Rising college costs are just one more example of how out of touch Senator Portman is with the struggles of working people in Ohio,” said Ohio Democratic Party spokeswoman Jennifer Donohue. “No matter how many speeches Senator Portman gives, actions still speak louder than words, and the fact is Senator Portman tried to end Perkins loans for thousands of Ohio students in the very same budget he continued handouts for billionaires, corporations and oil companies.”

Trailing in the polls and worried about his re-election campaign, Portman has attempted to cover his tracks by signing on to a Senate Resolution supporting the Perkins program – even taking to the Senate floor to talk about how important Perkins loans are to Ohio students. But, Portman failed to mention that eliminating Perkins was his idea:

  • As Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget in 2007, Portman Proposed Eliminating the Perkins Loan Revolving Fund: “Eligible Perkins loans would continue to be cancelled but no appropriations would be made to replenish the institutional revolving funds. This program termination is coupled with the Budget’s proposal to eliminate the Perkins loan program and recall the Federal portion of these revolving funds.” [Office Of Management And Budget, February 2007]

  • Portman Himself Even Testified at Congressional Hearings Defending his Proposal to Eliminate Perkins: “BISHOP: Mr. Portman, thank you for your testimony, and thank you for your endurance. […] And the Perkins revolving fund, the president requests that it be recalled. And if I’m reading the charts correctly, that’s a $419 million cut for fiscal ’08, also bringing that to zero.” [Political Transcript Wire, 2/7/07]

The Perkins program is not the first time Portman has sided with Washington special interests over Ohio students. In 2014 and 2015, Portman voted against allowing Ohioans to refinance student debt at lower rates – choosing instead to protect tax cuts for millionaires.  [CQ, 4/15/15; S.Con.Res. 11, Vote 149, 4/15/15; CQ, 6/11/14; S. 2432, Vote 185, 6/11/14].

By contrast, former Ohio Governor and U.S. Senate candidate Ted Strickland Strickland froze college tuition when he was Governor and made college free to veterans – boosting public university enrollment in Ohio by 20 percent. [Ohio General Assembly, H.B. 199, Signed 6/30/07; Associated Press, Toledo Blade, 7/1/07; Office Of Governor Ted Strickland Press Release, 7/8/08; Ohio State University, Accessed 5/8/15; University System Of Ohio, Headcount Enrollment, December 2014]

How Many Ohio Students Depend on Perkins?

25,472 Ohio students received more than $45 million in Perkins loans for the 2013-214 school year. Students already enrolled in Perkins and those who received their loans before midnight for this semester will not be cut off. But anyone whose loan had not yet come through could be cut off, and new students will not be able to apply for loans for future semesters. [U.S. Department Of Education, Federal Student Aid, Accessed 10/2/15]

Click here for Ohio Perkins data by school 2013-14.