College tuition generally comes with a hefty price tag, which is why you'll likely need student loans to help finance your studies. You can receive both a Stafford and Perkins loan at the same time to help you pay for your higher education expenses. In order to do so, however, your school must participate in the Federal Perkins Loan program and you must demonstrate financial need for this loan.

What is a Stafford Loan?

Stafford loans are a part of the federal student loan program offered through the U.S. Department of Education. You can receive either a subsidized or an unsubsidized Stafford loan. The primary difference between subsidized and unsubsidized loans lies in when the interest begins to accrue. Interest on subsidized loans does not accrue as long as you remain enrolled in school at least part time. Interest on unsubsidized loans accrues while you are attending school. You must demonstrate financial need to qualify for a subsidized Stafford loan and must enroll in an accredited college or university at least part time to qualify.

Stafford Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for a Stafford loan, you must complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. You must be a U.S. citizen, naturalized citizen, national or permanent resident. If you are non-citizen, you can still qualify if your immigration Arrival and Departure Record indicates you are a refugee, have asylum, are a Cuban-Haitian entrant with pending status or a parolee. Parolees must wait one year from their parole date and provide proof of their intentions of becoming a permanent resident to qualify for a Stafford loan.

What is a Perkins Loan?

A Perkins loan is a federal loan designed to help undergraduate and graduate students pay for the cost of higher education. A Perkins loan has a fixed interest rate of five percent and repayment begins nine months after you drop below part-time enrollment. Colleges and universities can choose whether to participate in the Federal Perkins Loan Program. If your school does not participate in the program, you are not eligible to receive a Perkins loan. Participating schools receive funding from the U.S. Department of Education to make Perkins loans to their students. When you take out a Perkins loan, your school becomes the lender on the loan. Schools give students who have Pell Grants priority for Perkins loans.

Perkins Eligibility Requirements

Your school will determine your financial need based on the financial information you provide on your FAFSA. You must also be a citizen, naturalized citizen, U.S. national or permanent resident of the United States. Non-citizens must provide copies of their immigration paperwork to their school to determine eligibility. Other requirements include a high school diploma or equivalent and a valid Social Security number. Men born on or after January 1, 1960 must register with the Selective Service if they have not already done so before they can receive a Perkins loan.

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