Perkins Loans are low-interest federal loans for undergraduate, graduate, and professional-degree students who have exceptional financial need based on the information they provide on the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA).
The loans are made with government funds through a school's financial aid office, and the school acts as the lender. Borrowers repay the school that makes the loan, but aren't responsible for paying the interest on the loan while enrolled at least half-time, during the nine-month grace period, or during a qualified deferment.
Like Direct Loans, Perkins Loans require separate entrance counseling the first time you take one of these loans. You must sign a Federal Perkins Loan Master Promissory Note (MPN) to receive the loan. By signing you promise to repay what you borrow. There's no charge for the loan other than the interest that accrues after the grace period ends. You must also complete federally mandated exit counseling, separately from the counseling for Direct Loans.
The interest rate on Perkins Loans is 5% and the maximum award is $5,500 a year for undergraduates and up to $8,000 for graduate and professional students. The actual amount you'll receive depends on your financial need and your school's level of funding.
For more information on interest rates for these and other loans, go to http://studentaid.ed.gov/types/loans/perkins.