Perkins Loan program expired

Cassie Buchman, Administration Editor

The Federal Perkins Loan program, which was the oldest federal student loan program, ended on Sept. 30.

The Perkins Loan was a low interest federal loan for students with exceptional financial need.

This academic year, about 250 students received the loan. In 2014-2015 about 350 students did.

Amanda Starwalt, the interim senior associate director of financial aid, said her office did not know until the end of September whether or not the Perkins Loan Program was going to end.

“There was nothing really we could do; we just had to wait and see what happened,” Starwalt said.

Some students are still eligible for the loan as they are part of a grandfather provision that allows schools to make loans to certain students for up to five additional years.

Students who had the loan before or during the 2014-2015 year will probably be able to get the loan again next year unless it was their first time having it.

“It still depends on what funding we have, as it depends on what the institution has to award,” Starwalt said.

Starwalt said this was the government’s way of slowly getting rid of the program.

“Every year we’re going to have more students graduate and every year that are going to be fewer students who are eligible,” Starwalt said. “Eventually as students graduate the program is going to go away altogether.”

Students who change their majors need to be careful when dealing with the Perkins Loan.

“It depends on how far they change their major,” Stalwart said.

Students get a code associated with their major and if the major is identical to the first four digits of the code of the new major, they can still get it.

“If you’re in education and you change from math and science, you’re probably okay,” Stalwart said. “If you make a big jump from education to say, kinesiology, you’re probably going to lose it.”

Stalwart said the government wants to make sure the students who receive the loan are working toward the same degree.

“If it takes you longer to graduate, they don’t want to keep giving you the loan for something you’ve changed your mind on,” she said.

Stalwart said like much aid the loan will be kind of first come first serve.

“The earlier you file, the earlier you turn in all of your verification documents, then the better your chances of receiving certain aid are,” Stalwart said.

Stalwart said in the case of the Perkins loan, it will be even more important for students to get their materials in on time.

“They’re throwing in all these eligibility requirements that it’s going to be difficult,” Stalwart said.

A big thing the financial aid office will now have to deal with is monitoring who has the loan, who does not have it and when students become ineligible for it.

“I hate that we didn’t even really know what was going to happen until the last minute,” Stalwart said.

Financial aid knew there was a possibility the program would end, but they did not know for sure.

“With all the regulations they’ve been giving us over the years, there have been a lot of things that are last minute like that,” she said. “There was no way for us to notify people what was happening, it was just business as usual until they said it was done.”

Stalwart said students do not have much to worry about if they had the loan last year as long as they keep in line with the eligibility requirements.

She said students who do not get the loan would have to find other ways to fill the financial gap, such as parent or private loans.

“I would encourage students to apply for scholarships as early as they can,” Stalwart said. “File early, plan ahead.”

Director of Admissions Chris Dearth said the expiration of the program will affect many students in the state and nation, but Eastern will continue to work with families to make Eastern’s education affordable.

“We have made it a priority to assist families by creating such programs as the Panther Promise Tuition Grant and the Textbook rental program which saves students, on average, $900 per year,” Dearth said. “Because of these efforts we feel we are in good shape compared to many of our competitors who may rely more heavily on the Perkins Loan as a way to address a families’ financial need.”

The Panther Promise Tuition Grant that will help eligible students, giving them up to $2500 per year.

Dearth said cost and affordability is the most important factor in college selection and the loan was one of the factors that helped alleviate financial burdens for prospective students.

He said while it was unfortunate that the federal government, who talk about the importance of a college education, chose to let the program end but Eastern was focused on taking care of students and their families.

“It is business as usual, we have been through this before,” Dearth said. “Things are going to be fine.”


Cassie Buchman can be reached by 581-2812 or [email protected]