It’s no surprise that as the cost of undergraduate and graduate programs continues to soar, the heavy weight of student debt will burden students for years far beyond their graduation date. However, soon it will become even harder for students with limited financial options to receive manageable financial aid to pay for their college education. Recently, the Senate blocked legislation to extend the longstanding Perkins loan program which has since expired. This national program helped over 1,600 UMass students in the 2013-2014 school year to pay their tuition when all their other loan options were exhausted.
What was the Perkins loan program?
Since 1958, Perkins loans provided students with low-interest rate loans to help fund their college education. In addition to being the oldest federal aid program, it was also one of the most forgiving requiring the first payment to be made nine months after graduation compared to six months for the U.S. Department of Education's Direct Loan Program. Because of these factors, the Perkins loan program helped to serve students with exceptional financial need.
What will happen to these students now?
Students who borrowed from the program before July 1, 2015 will still be able to receive funding. The students that benefited from this program after that date will likely need to take out a private loan which have higher interest rates and need to be paid off more quickly. However, all hope is not lost as legislators will have a chance to restore the Perkins program when the Higher Education Act is reauthorized.
Alternatives for students.
Students who continue their education online are able to save great amounts of money since room and board is no longer a fee that they need to prepare for. Online learning is an ideal option for students who are unable to complete degree programs at a brick and mortar campus due to their work schedule or for financial reasons. The online classroom provides an unmatched flexibility for students that rely on their full-time jobs in order to help pay for their education, particularly in this new landscape of more limited financial assistance.