The federal government has offered Perkins loans since 1958. In recent years, around 1,500 institutions of higher education and over half a million students have participated in the program.
Legislators allowed Perkins to expire in favor of simplified programs they hope to put in place in the future. The program’s expiration does not affect students who have already accepted a Perkins loan, but permanently closes the program to any new students.
At UNC, Perkins loans are a comparatively small but important part of the financial aid package.
“Constraints in the federal government’s direct loan programs require us to supplement financial aid with other funds,” said Phil Asbury, deputy director of UNC’s financial aid office. “That’s where Perkins comes in.”
Asbury said more than 2,100 students at UNC currently have Perkins loans in their financial aid packages.
“The average amount students borrow is about $2,500,” he said. “The maximum set by the federal government is $5,500, but we never have to go that high because of our grant resources.”
Stephen Farmer, UNC’s vice provost for enrollment and undergraduate admissions, said Perkins loans have been crucial to UNC’s financial aid program, and the university is actively developing alternatives to Perkins to continue meeting full need.
“The main alternative we’ve been talking about is an institutional loan program that, in effect, would replace Perkins loans with comparable ones administered by the university,” he said. “Some other colleges and universities already have these, and the elimination of Perkins will probably prompt us to develop one.”