Many federal jobs qualify for student loan debt repayment help up to $10,000 per year. Under 5 U.S.C. 5379, agencies may repay the student loans of federal employees in order to attract or keep highly qualified individuals. These repayments may not amount to more than $60,000 in total.
Selection of employees to receive assistance with repaying student loans must be in accordance with merit principles. This authority is not an entitlement. As with any incentive, it is used at the discretion of the agency. If an agency chooses to use it, the agency will need to develop a plan that describes how it will be implemented within that agency.
People interested in participating in this program must contact the agency in which they work or wish to work for details.
Note: The Veterans Affairs Department operates several student debt repayment programs for its own employees with different terms. See www.vacareers.va.gov/Benefits/EducationSupport.
In order to receive student loan debt repayment help, an employee must:
- sign a service agreement to remain in the service of the paying agency for a period of at least three years, unless involuntarily separated, and to repay all benefits received if separated for cause or poor performance; and
- maintain an acceptable level of performance in order to receive continued benefits.
The repayment authority is limited to student loans authorized by the Higher Education Act of 1965 and the Public Health Service Act. These are federally insured loans made by educational institutions or banks and other private lenders.
Higher Education Act
The Higher Education Act covers guaranteed student loan programs such as: Stafford Loans; Supplemental Loans; Plus Loans; Federal Consolidation Loans; Defense Loans (made before July 1, 1972); National Direct Student Loans (made between July 1, 1972 and July 1, 1987); and Perkins Loans. Loans covered under the Public Health Service Act include: the Nursing Student Loan Program loans, the Health Profession Student Loan Program loans; and the Health Education Assistance Loan Program loans.
The level of academic degree for which a student loan was obtained is not a consideration in determining eligibility for this incentive. However, the loan must be made under the appropriate parts of the Higher Education Act of 1965 or the Public Health Service Act in order to be a qualifying loan for this incentive.
Also, loan repayments are only allowable for tuition paid to colleges or universities accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association recognized by the Department of Education.
Agencies may not use this incentive to retain employees who leave for positions in other federal agencies. Similarly, agencies may not use this incentive to recruit current federal employees from other agencies.
Note: The authority can be used to help pay off a student loan held by a parent for a child’s education, such as a Plus loan, if the parent is a federal employee. It cannot be used for such loans if the federal employee is the child, however.
The repayment is includible in the employee’s gross income and in wages for federal employment tax purposes notwithstanding the agency’s repayment of the loan directly to the lender.