End of Perkins Loans means difficulties for some at BW

Starting this year, students attending Baldwin Wallace University with high financial need may find difficulties securing additional support after last year’s Congressional decision not to renew the Federal Perkins Loan Program.

Last year on Sept. 30, Congress did not reauthorize the Perkins Loan Program by its deadline, leaving it to expire and final disbursements to be authorized until June 30, 2018. Late reauthorizations have been made in the past; such was the case in 2015, when Congress reauthorized the program three months late on December 1. But as almost a full year has passed, there is little hope for renewal at this time.

“It’s very sad to see that the Federal Perkins Loan Program has not been renewed for 2018 given its success for the past six decades helping high-need students attend college,” said Dr. George L. Rolleston, director of financial aid.

Since the late 1950s, Perkins Loans have been distributed to schools to assist students with outstanding financial need. The loans carried a 5% fixed interest rate, which were optimal for students who would experience issues paying back higher-interest loans post-graduation. As a revolving loan program, the money collected from graduated students went right back into the program, assisting more students financially. That means at a four-year institution that gave students Perkins Loans for their full enrollment, a total of 15 students would have benefitted from the same sum amount.

At BW, the Financial Aid Office offered the loans to students who were also eligible for Federal Pell Grants, principally First Year students, said Rolleston.

“Freshmen are the primary group that we are trying to assist,” said Rolleston. “Through […] the subsidized and unsubsidized direct loans, freshmen don’t receive as much eligibility as a sophomore or an upper-class student.”

Sophomores and upper-class students were still eligible to continue receiving Perkins Loans if the University had leftover funds. Rolleston said that after the eligible freshmen have either accepted or declined the loan, “we begin to look at returning students who still need assistance.”

Although the amount varied in the past, BW students typically received a combined $500,000 in Perkins Loans per year. For the 2017-2018 school year, 250 students, or around 8% of the student population, received these loans compared to the 2016-2017 year, with 338 students.

Despite this drastic change in financial aid, neither the size of the freshman class nor the percentage of high-need students has changed much this year. While this does benefit the University in a time where the future rate of student enrollment at higher-education institutions is uncertain, it also procures unforeseen issues for students and their families financially, which may reflect unto the University.

The students are here now, said Rolleston, and there is more pressure on them to find alternate means of making payments.

The Financial Aid Office has helped students and their families explore further financial options, such as bank loans or other federal loan programs, as well as exploring options for gift aid. On a case to case basis, the Financial Aid Office will award additional gift aid to students in need, depending on their financial circumstances.

“I have a very strong belief that when we accept a student, we need to do everything in our power to keep them here, to get them to a degree, as long as they […] are academically able,” said Barbara Roberts, assistant director of financial aid. “That’s why I feel that the Perkins [Loan] really helped many of our students who still have that gap.”

For now, high-need students have time to find alternate funding, but starting in October, students who have outstanding debt to the university will encounter holds and other issues when enrolling for Spring semester classes. With the absence of the Perkins Loan Program, the educational futures of these students may be in question.