Can I get a deferment or forbearance if I can’t pay my federal Perkins Loan?

Learn about getting a deferment or forbearance if you have a federal Perkins Loan.


I have a federal Perkins Loan, but I’m having trouble making the payments. Can I get a deferment or forbearance?


Yes, you can get a deferment or forbearance for your Perkins Loan if you meet certain eligibility criteria.

The Difference Between a Deferment and a Forbearance

A deferment or forbearance allows you to temporarily discontinue making payments or to temporarily make smaller payments on a federal student loan.

How deferments work. In a deferment, you don’t have to make payments on your loan. Also, interest doesn't accrue on a subsidized loan, like a federal Perkins Loan, during the deferment period.

How forbearance works. With a forbearance, you either stop making payments or temporarily make smaller payments for a set amount of time. Generally, you have to pay the interest that accrues on a loan during a forbearance period, no matter if the loan is subsidized or unsubsidized. The unpaid interest is then capitalized (added to the loan balance). But according to the Department of Education, unpaid interest is never capitalized on Perkins Loans.

Getting a Deferment

Deferments for Perkins Loan borrowers are available in, for example, any of the following situations:

  • You're a half-time or greater student.
  • You're in an approved graduate fellowship program.
  • You're in an approved rehabilitation training program for the disabled.
  • You're unemployed or unable to find full-time employment.
  • You're experiencing an economic hardship.
  • You're serving in the Peace Corps.

Deferments for military servicemembers. Military servicemembers can get a deferment under certain circumstances. For example:

  • If you’re on active duty military service in connection with a war, military operation, or national emergency, you qualify for a deferment. (If your period of active duty service includes October 1, 2007—or begins on or after that date—the eligibility period ends 180 days after you are demobilized from active duty service.)
  • If you’re a member of the National Guard—or other reserve component of the U.S. armed forces (current or retired)—and you’re called or ordered to active duty while enrolled at least half-time at an eligible school or within six months of having been enrolled at least half-time, you qualify for deferment of repayment on your federal student loans during the 13 months after your active duty service ends, or until you go back to school on at least a half-time basis, whichever happens first.

Grace period. Most Perkins Loan recipients who get a deferment also get a six-month post-deferment grace period. During this time, you don’t have to make payments.

Canceling your loan. You might also be eligible for a deferment while you are working towards cancellation on your Perkins Loan. (For general information about canceling federal student loans, including Perkins Loans, see Student Loan Relief: Canceling Your Loans. For specific information about canceling a Perkins Loan, see the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid website.)

How to apply for a deferment. To get a deferment, you’ll need to make a request to your loan servicer, usually by filling out a form.

Getting a Forbearance

Your loan servicer may grant you a forbearance for your Perkins Loan if:

  • you have financial problems
  • you have medical expenses
  • you’ve had a change in your employment, or
  • for another reason that's acceptable to your loan servicer.

How to apply for a forbearance. To get a forbearance, you’ll need to submit a request to your loan servicer. Again, you'll probably need to fill out a form.

Getting More Information

If you have questions about options for repaying your Perkins Loan, you may contact:

  • the school where you received your Perkins Loan or
  • the ECSI Federal Perkins Loan Servicer at 866-313-3797 if your Perkins Loan has been assigned to the U.S. Department of Education.

For more information about deferment and forbearance options available to Perkins Loans borrowers, see the ECSI Deferment/Cancellation Table for Perkins Loans, go to the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid website, or call your loan servicer.

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