WASHINGTON - On Thursday, Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken continued efforts to save a student loan program that helps 10,000 Minnesotans afford the cost of college each year, a release from the senators said.

In a bipartisan letter, Klobuchar and Franken called on Senate leadership to take up and pass legislation to renew the Perkins Loan program, which expired at the beginning of October. "Rising costs for education are putting a strain on Minnesota students and their families and making college seem out of reach for too many of our young people," Klobuchar said. "Perkins loans have been critical to helping many Minnesotans afford college and we must swiftly reauthorize the program to help ensure college costs don't block the pathway to opportunity."

The Perkins Loan Program, the nation's oldest federal student loan program, has existed with broad bipartisan support since 1958 and has provided more than $28 billion in loans through almost 26 million awards to students in all 50 states, the release said. A one-year extension to the program passed overwhelmingly in the House of Representatives, but failed in the Senate.

"For students and families in Minnesota and around the country, college is getting more and more unaffordable, and students are taking on more and more debt," Franken, a member of the Senate Education Committee, said in the release. "In Minnesota alone, over 10,000 students receive Perkins loans for an average of $2000 a year each. We can't let that crucial support slip away for good. I'm disappointed that the Senate wasn't able to extend this important program before it expired, and we need to keep fighting to renew it."