Perkins Loan Repayment: How to Repay These Federal Loans

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Perkins loans, a type of federal student loan based on extreme financial need, are no longer available. The program ended in September 2017, and federal law required colleges to disburse the last Perkins loans by July 2018. About 1,700 colleges participated in the program.

If you were an undergraduate or graduate who took out Perkins loans before they were discontinued, you’re still required to repay them. But because of low (and fixed) interest rates and lots of forgiveness options, there are many ways to make Perkins loans repayment more manageable.

Here’s what you need to know:

Basics of Perkins loan repayment

While the Perkins loan program — formerly known as national defense student loans or national direct student loans — has expired for new borrowers, anyone who took out these loans before it ended is still responsible for making payments. But the program was a relatively generous one, with many ways to ease the burden of loan bills. Here’s how Perkins loan repayment works:

  • The repayment term for Perkins loans is 10 years. The maximum loan amount was $5,500 a year for undergraduates and $8,000 a year for graduate students, though the amount you received was based on financial need and availability.
  • The grace period for borrowers who graduated, left school or dropped below half time was nine months, compared with six months for other types of federal student loans. That means you had more time to prepare for repayment and fit loan bills into your budget.
  • Perkins loans had no origination fees, unlike direct loans and PLUS loans from the federal government. The origination fee on other loan types generally comes out of the loan disbursement, meaning you see less money than you originally borrowed. Perkins loans let you keep the total principal balance without having to pay extra fees.
  • Interest rates are fixed, meaning they don’t change over time. They’re 5%, which is lower than some other federal loan types.
  • Payments may be made monthly or quarterly. There aren’t prepayment penalties for paying off your loan early.
  • While funding for Perkins loans comes from the government, your school or the school’s loan servicer collects student loan payments and helps you navigate repayment. That may make it easier for you to get help or communicate about your loans since you can call the school’s financial aid office for guidance.

Options for handling Perkins loan repayment

One of your main priorities is to make Perkins loan payments on time, every time, to protect your credit score. Missed or late payments will have a negative impact on your credit, which can prevent you from taking out other loans in the future at favorable rates. If you’d like to change your repayment plan or amount, check your options below.

Option Key Fact
Change your repayment plan Not all plans, such as income-driven repayment, are available to Perkins loan borrowers.
Delay your payment The government pays the interest charged during a qualifying deferment, so interest won’t accrue.
Pursue cancellation If you work in a qualifying public service job, you could see up to 100% of your balance canceled.
Weigh consolidation and refinancing Before you yield exclusive Perkins loans benefits by consolidating or refinancing, make sure you’re confident you won’t use them.

Change your repayment plan

As a federal Perkins loan borrower, you don’t have direct access to income-driven repayment plans if you need a lower monthly payment. You’ll need to speak with your school to learn about repayment options for Perkins loans.

But you can consolidate Perkins loans into a single direct consolidation loan to qualify for income-driven repayment if you need it. The catch is that you’ll give up unique Perkins loan benefits, such as loan cancellation for those in certain public service jobs (more on available cancellation programs later).

Double-check whether you’re better off keeping your Perkins loans as they are before consolidating them. If you qualify for Perkins loan cancellation, not consolidating Perkins loans may mean getting forgiveness on your loans within five years, even if you can’t get an income-driven payment in the meantime. For others who wouldn’t qualify for Perkins loans cancellation, consolidating to get a more flexible repayment schedule might be worth it.

Delay your payment

When you defer Perkins loans, you put payments on pause during a period when you’re unable to make them. You can defer Perkins loans for a number of reasons, including unemployment, economic hardship, cancer treatment and graduate fellowships. Contact your school’s financial aid office to discuss your options.

Interest won’t accrue during Perkins loan deferment. You may also receive a six-month post-deferment grace period, during which you’re not required to make payments.

Pursue cancellation

Perkins loans come with several cancellation options, particularly for borrowers who work in public service fields. Cancellation happens incrementally, in certain percentages each year of repayment. Borrowers in these professions — and more — can qualify for up to 100% loan cancellation within five years:

  • Teachers
  • Nurses or medical technicians
  • Firefighters
  • Speech pathologists with master’s degrees working at certain eligible schools
  • Librarians with master’s degrees working at certain eligible schools
  • Law enforcement or corrections officers
  • Public defenders

Other professions are eligible for reduced amount of loan cancellation, or cancellation after a longer period of time. If you don’t qualify, look into other loan forgiveness options, including the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program and loan repayment assistance from employers, states and other sources.

Your Perkins loan may also be discharged if you die, become totally and permanently disabled, declare bankruptcy or attend a school that closed. It’s also available for veterans with a service-connected disability and spouses of 9/11 attack victims.

Weigh consolidation and refinancing

Consolidating Perkins loans into a direct consolidation loan will mean giving up certain benefits, such as subsidized interest during loan deferment and access to Perkins loan cancellation. But if you need to switch to income-driven repayment, or if Public Service Loan Forgiveness is a better option for you than Perkins loan cancellation, consolidating might be best.

If your loans are in default — meaning you’re more than 270 days behind on payments — you can opt for rehabilitation through the federal government to bring them current again. You’ll make nine on-time payments within 10 months and — in return — the default will come off your credit report (though late payments will still appear). You can only rehabilitate your loans once.

For borrowers who aren’t having trouble affording their Perkins loans, private student loan refinancing is an option. If your credit score and income qualify you, a private lender may replace your Perkins loans with a private loan at a lower interest rate. Since Perkins loans already come with low rates and many borrower protections, the potential benefits of refinancing Perkins loans could be limited.

Perkins loan repayment FAQ

Do you have to pay back federal Perkins loans even though the program ended? Yes. Borrowers with existing Perkins loans must still repay them.

Repayment on Perkins loans begins when exactly? You must have started repaying Perkins loans nine months after graduating or leaving school.

What is the federal Perkins loan website? The federal government maintains a short webpage about Perkins loans, but your school’s financial aid website likely has more information.

Where can I find Perkins loan customer service? Contact your school’s financial aid office for questions relating to your Perkins loan.

Can Perkins loans be deferred? Yes, under several circumstances, including unemployment and financial hardship. Get in touch with your school to find out how to defer your Perkins loans.

Can Perkins loans be forgiven? Yes, if you meet certain requirements, such as working in an eligible field.

What will consolidating my Perkins loan do? Consolidating your Perkins loan into a direct consolidation loan will disqualify you from certain Perkins loan benefits, such as cancellation of your debt after five years of payments if you work in certain jobs. But you’ll gain access to other repayment programs, such as income-driven repayment. Refinancing Perkins loans into a private student loan will mean losing the ability to take advantage of any federal loan repayment benefits.

Andrew Pentis contributed to this report.

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CollegeAve Disclosures

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.

1Rates shown are for the College Ave Undergraduate Loan product and include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.

2This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a first year graduate student borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 7.10% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $141.66 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $16,699.21. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.

Information advertised valid as of 5/18/2020. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Lowest advertised rates require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.


3 Important Disclosures for Ascent.

Ascent Disclosures

Before taking out private student loans, you should explore and compare all financial aid alternatives, including grants, scholarships, and federal student loans and consider your future monthly payments and income. Applying with a cosigner may improve your chance of getting approved and could help you qualify for a lower interest rate. Ascent Student Loans may be funded by Richland State Bank (RSB). Ascent Student Loan products are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application, verification of application information and certification of loan amount by a participating school. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions, and certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. Ascent is a federally registered trademark of Turnstile Capital Management (TCM) and may be used by RSB under limited license. Richland State Bank is a federally registered service mark of Richland State Bank.

  1. Variable rate loans are based on a margin between 2.90% and 16.50% plus the 1-Month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) rounded to the nearest 1/100th of a percent. The current LIBOR is 0.667%, which may adjust monthly. Your interest rate may increase or decrease, based on LIBOR monthly changes, resulting in an Annual Percentage (APR) range between 3.18% and 13.92%. Fixed rate loans have an APR range between 4.00% and 14.92% based on your credit worthiness and your selected program. Competitive variable rates calculated monthly at the time of loan approval. Rates are effective as of 05/01/2020 and reflect an Automatic Payment Discount of 0.25% on the lowest offered rate and a 2.00% discount on the highest offered rate. Automatic Payment Discount is available if the borrower is enrolled in automatic payments from their personal checking account and the amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month. (See Automatic Payment Discount Terms & Conditions.)
  2. Payments may be deferred. Subject to lender discretion, forbearance and/or deferment options may be available for borrowers who are encountering financial distress.
  3. Making interest only or partial interest payments while in school will not reduce the principal balance of the loan. There are three (3) flexible in-school repayment options that include fully deferred, interest only and $25 minimum repayment.
  4. Flexible repayment plans may be offered up to a fifteen (15) year repayment term for a variable rate loan and ten (10) year repayment term for a fixed rate loan. Students must be enrolled at least half-time at an eligible school. Minimum loan amount is $2,000.
  5. Interest rate reduction of 0.25% for enrollment in automatic debit applies only when the borrower and/or cosigner signs up for automatic payments and the regularly scheduled, current amount due (including full, flat, or interest only payments, as applicable) is successfully deducted from the designated bank account each month. Interest rate reduction(s) will not apply during periods when no payment is due, including periods of In-School, Deferment, Grace or Forbearance. If you have two (2) returned payments for Nonsufficient Funds, we may cancel your automatic debit enrollment and you will lose the 0.25% interest rate reduction. You will then need to re-qualify and re-enroll in automatic debit payments to receive the 0.25% interest rate reduction.
  6. All applicants (individual and cosigner) are required to complete a brief online financial literacy course as part of the application process to be eligible for funding.
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    • The student borrower has graduated from the degree program that the loan was used to fund.
    • The student borrower may change majors and/or transfer to a different school, but must obtain the same level of degree (e.g. – undergraduate or graduate)
    • The graduation date is more than 90 days and less than five (5) years after the date of the loan’s first disbursement.
    • Any loan that the student has borrowed under the Ascent loan is not more than 30-days delinquent or in a default status as of the graduation date and until any Graduation Reward is paid.
  10. Students can apply to release their cosigner and continue with the loan in only their name after making the first 24 consecutive regularly scheduled full principal and interest payments on-time and meeting the other eligibility criteria to qualify for the loan without a cosigner.

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  1. Students who get at least a 3.0 GPA (or equivalent) qualify for a one-time cash reward on each new Discover undergraduate and graduate student loan. Reward redemption period is limited. Please visit DiscoverStudentLoans.com/Reward for any applicable reward terms and conditions.
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Offered terms are subject to change and state law restrictions. Loans are offered through CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS #1175900).

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Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.54%- 6.40% (3.54% – 6.40% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 3.79% – 6.65% (3.79% – 6.65% APR).

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Variable Rate Disclosure: Variable Rates are based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of May 1, 2020, the one-month LIBOR rate is 0.44%. Variable interest rates will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. The maximum variable rate is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%.

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Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer. Borrowers should carefully review federal benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are considering possible loan forgiveness options, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision on our website including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.

Eligibility Criteria: Applicants must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or eligible non-citizen with a creditworthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident co-signer. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer is required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. Citizens Bank private student loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/Promissory Note, verification of application information, and if applicable, self-certification form, school certification of the loan amount, and student’s enrollment at a Citizens Bank participating school.

Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.

Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.

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