The Perkins loans — often referred to as “campus-based aid” — are often viewed as the best type of student loan one can receive.
Unlike the “unsubsidized” Stafford loans, they are reserved for students who demonstrate an “exceptional financial need”.
Funding comes from federal coffers but is made through a school’s financial aid office who has the jurisdiction in determining who receives funding and how much.
And since the school is the lender, loan repayment must be made to the school.1
Am I Eligible?
Perkins loans are awarded to both full-time and part-time students who demonstrate exceptional financial need — regardless of income level or credit history; but aren’t limited only to “traditional” students just out of high school.
As a single mother student, you’re entitled to borrow as long as you are able to show proof of financial need. Students with the lowest EPC will be given priority.
In addition, other eligibility requirements are as follows. You must
- Be a United States citizen or an eligible non-citizen with a valid social security number
- Be working toward a degree or certificate in an eligible program
- Have a high school diploma, GED or pass an approved ability-to-benefit (ABT) test
How do I Apply?
As with most federal student loans, you will first have to complete and submit a FAFSA, which stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. To be considered, you need to check “yes” in the section of your FAFSA that asks about your interest in student loans.
From there, your school will receive an ISIR or Institutional Student Information Record while you receive a SAR or Student Aid Report. Both documents will detail the EFC and your eligibility for this type of loan.
Upon approval of the loan, you’re required to sign a Perkins Loan Master Promissory Note2 before the school will disburse any funds to your student account.
How much can I borrow?
This will largely depend on what your expected family contribution or EFC is. Factors considered for maximum loan amount available include the following:
- How much of your income remains once basic living expenses are deducted
- The value of remaining assets when asset protection allowance is deducted
- The number of individuals in the family who are also pursuing a postsecondary degree
There is also a specific assessment procedure and rate used for single mothers, which are qualified as independent students with dependents.
In any case, the maximum amount available annually that you can receive from this loan is $5,500 — and capped at a maximum of $27,500.
If you’re a graduate or professional degree student, you can receive a maximum of $8,000 per year but only up to a borrowing limit of $60,000.
What is the current interest rate?
The current interest rate on Perkins loans is fixed at 5% for the duration of the 10-year repayment period, which is the lowest among all federal student loan programs.
Since it’s “subsidized”, you don’t pay interest on the loan while you are in school, or during the 9-month grace period available following graduation.
According to FinAid, the Perkins loan is the best student loan available and the most generous in terms of interest rate, grace period, fees (yes, no origination fee is charged), and repayment options.
However, apart from its very limited availability, not all schools participate in the Perkins Loan Program.3 You should check with your school’s financial aid office to see if your school participates before applying.
- Source: Student Loan Network, Federal Perkins Loan Program [↩]
- This is essentially a binding contract between yourself and the Department of Education that says you promise to pay back the money you borrow, plus the fixed 5% interest rate. [↩]
- An estimated 1,700 postsecondary colleges or universities participating in this program [↩]