A Federal Perkins Loan is a need-based student loan program administered through the Federal Perkins Loan Program. This is a school-based federal student loan program, which disperses funds based on financial need. Not every university participates. Schools that do participate receive and disperse funding to enrolled full or part-time students who meet the criteria for eligibility and are selected.
The maximum amount each student is able to borrow could vary based on need, other sources of aid, and that school’s funding. Available funding at each institution is limited. This means that not every student who could be eligible may receive a Perkins loan, and, for those who do receive one, the amount they receive may vary from the amount they’re eligible for.
Undergraduate students may be eligible to borrow up to $5,500 each year, with an overall maximum of $27,500. As a graduate student, you may be eligible to borrow up to $8,000 each year. The maximum amount that you could borrow over the course of undergraduate and graduate school is $60,000.
The Federal Perkins Loan interest rate is fixed at 5%. The interest rate does not change over the life of the loan.
Am I Eligible for a Federal Perkins Student Loan?
Eligibility for a Federal Perkins Loan is somewhat complex, and may vary on a case-by-case basis. Factors that influence your eligibility include:
- Your enrollment (full or part-time) in an undergraduate, graduate, or professional school
- Your ability to demonstrate exceptional financial need
- Your enrollment at a school that participates in the Federal Perkins Loan Program
- Other potential criteria (amount previously borrowed, other aid being received, and other factors)
Financial need is determined using the information from your FAFSA. It’s based on the difference between the cost of attendance at that school and your expected family contribution. The exceptionality of your need could be impacted by how expensive your school is, your family’s income, and how your level of need aligns with other potentially eligible students at your school.
How to Apply for a Federal Perkins Loan
Eligibility for a Perkins loan is determined through your FAFSA. As such, in order to apply for one, you’ll need to complete the FAFSA early enough to be considered before your school’s funding has been exhausted.
Once you submit your FAFSA, if you are enrolled with a participating school, your financial aid office will be responsible for determining your eligibility. If the award letter you receive does not include a Perkins loan as an option, that could mean one of three things:
- Your school does not participate in the Federal Perkins Loan Program
- Your school’s annual funding for Perkins loans has been exhausted
- You are not eligible to receive one that year
To find out more, contact the Financial Aid office at your selected university.
Repaying Your Federal Perkins Loan
Because Perkins loans are dispersed through the university itself, the school in question is considered the lender. As such, when you begin repayment, you’ll most likely either be repaying the school or their loan servicer.
Borrowers must begin repaying their Perkins loans once their grace periods end. If you are attending school at least half-time, your grace period would be about nine months after you graduate, leave school, or drop below half-time status. If you’re enrolled for less than half-time, contact your school’s financial aid office to double check the length of your grace period.
After you enter repayment, if you find that you have difficulty making the payments, contact either your school or your loan servicer (whomever you make your payments to) to learn more about your alternatives, if you qualify for them. This could include things like modifying your payment plan or entering forbearance.
Has the Federal Perkins Loan Program Been Cut?
The Federal Perkins Loan Program was slated to end in September 2017, but the government has been going back and forth on the issue. One plan was proposed to extend the Perkins program through 2019, but no final decision has been made.
The good news is that if you do have a current Perkins loan, it is still good through the rest of the school year.