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Perkins Loan Availability Fading

April 3, 2008

by Paulina Mis

The credit crunch and its negative impact on student borrowers is no longer news.   Both FFEL and private lenders have been responsible for financial tensions, and now there’s more to gripe about. Numerous colleges have been complaining that they are not receiving sufficient funding to cover their students' Perkins Loan needs.

Perkins Loans are awarded to students by colleges and universities, but the government provides much of the funding. Because these loans are restricted to students who show particular financial need, shortages will affect students whose families have the lowest incomes most.  Perkins Loans have the cheapest interest rates and the most lenient payment options as far as government loans go, as far as most student loans go. Students are asked to pay a 5 percent interest rate on Perkins Loans as opposed to 6.8-7.22 percent on federal Stafford Loans and 7.9-8.5 percent on federal PLUS Loans. Those who turn to private lenders can expect even higher rates.

Due to a poor loan market and a lack of government subsidies, many schools have been forced to cut back on both the number and the size of their Perkins Loans. According to U.S. News & World Report estimates, about 50,000 students who would have qualified for Perkins Loans last year will not qualify for them this year.  Those who do qualify may still see their loan limits diminish. Technically, students can borrow up to $4,000 in Perkins Loans (though the number may be lower for those deemed less needy), but certain colleges will be decreasing the maximum funds available to students. 

This has left families worried that they may be forced to rely on private student loans after reaching their federal loan limits.  After dealing with increasing default rates, both Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) lenders and private lenders have been forced to make loans more difficult to receive and less appealing to borrowers. Major lenders are becoming sticklers about eligibility criteria and have been cutting back on the benefits offered to students with good paying records.  

Students who are no longer eligible for Perkins Loans still have financial aid opportunities. By applying for college scholarships and grants, students may find college funding they do not have to repay. Before considering loans, students should conduct a free college scholarship search to find awards they may be eligible to receive. It is also important to fill out a FAFSA each year. Just because an individual is not eligible for Perkins Loans does not mean they will not be awarded free money in the form of Pell, FSEOG, SMART or TEACH grants.


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