Federal Perkins Loans
Perkins Loans, unlike Stafford and PLUS Loans, are only awarded to students with exceptional financial need. The terms of the Perkins Loan are the most generous of all the Federal loan programs, although the maximum borrowing limit is lower than the Stafford or PLUS loans. In general, Perkins Loans are considered to be the best student loans available.
All Perkins Loans are subsidized. In other words, the government pays the interest on the loan while the student is still in school, and for a grace period after graduation. Additionally, Perkins Loans carry no origination or default fees. Interest rates for Perkins Loans are fixed at 5%. With the exception of Stafford Loans, this is the lowest interest rate available to students through Federal loan programs.
Students have a 9-month grace period after graduation (3 months longer than the Stafford Loans' grace period), after which time they must begin repaying the loan. Students must make a minimum payment of $40 a month. Once payments begin, students have 10 years to fully repay the loan.
Working in certain fields of public service can result in the Perkins Loan being "forgiven." For example, full-time firefighters, nurses, teachers, and law enforcement officers (among others) are eligible for 100% of their Perkins Loan to be forgiven. Loan forgiveness usually requires that a certain number of years be devoted to the profession.
How to Apply
All students who wish to apply for a Perkins Loan must complete a FAFSA form. This form determines your eligibility for Perkins Loans as well as other forms of Federal aid. The FAFSA form can be found at fafsa.ed.gov. Once completed, the results are forwarded to your school, which then determines your eligibility for a Perkins Loan. Perkins Loans are need-based, and only awarded to students demonstrating exceptional financial need in their FAFSA form.