With its five percent interest rate, the Perkins Loan Program has helped low-income students pay for undergraduate and graduate studies for almost six decades. According to the U.S Department of Education, the Perkins is a federal program aimed at helping students “with exceptional financial need.”
Because schools participating in the program are the actual lenders, the Department of Education specifies that “funds depend on your financial need and the availability of funds at your college.” The Chronicle of Higher Education describes the Perkins as the “government’s oldest student loan program.” As of September 2017, however, this federal loan will cease to exist.
The Associate Vice President for Student Financial Services at PLNU, Cindy Chappell said, “PLNU has been an active participant in the Perkins loan program, in spite of not receiving any new federal funding for many years.”
“Because no school receives any new Perkins funding, Perkins loans made to a student today are only possible if PLNU alumni who took out a Perkins loan pay it back…. think of it as a ‘recycled’ loan program,” she said in an e-mail interview. “As a result of the responsible repayment of Perkins loans by former students, we were able to award almost $600,000 in Perkins loans to PLNU students last year.”
Chappell also confirmed that the decision to end the program comes from “elected officials.” In 2015, the Senate had the final say in ending the program. Although it was, at the time, extended for another two years, it will soon be permanently interrupted.
How will this affect students who are in extreme financial need? Students who took advantage of the program before agree that nothing good will come out of its conclusion.
Ben Kallish, a senior PLNU English literature major, said he used the program for the first time last year. “I used it because I am a low-income student, and I needed additional funds to pay tuition,” he said. “I would have used it as soon as I matriculated if I had known about it.”
Kallish believes the termination of the Perkins “is going to adversely affect poor students like me and make them more dependent on high-interest private loans.”
Kallish also said that the end of the federal loan impacted his decision to apply to graduate school. “I can’t afford grad school for general reasons of poverty,” he said. “I could do it with private loans, but I owe enough money to private lenders already.” In order to repay the loans that he has already accumulated, Kallish will start working as soon as he graduates.
Ricardo Garcia, a senior Applied Health Science major who also used the Perkins Loan when he found himself in need of additional funds, thinks the end of the program “is going to seriously impact the lives of all low-income students.”