Federal Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) Calendar Year 2015 Report

Federal Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP)

The following is an overview of the loan repayment assistance program calendar year report submitted by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) annually to Congress.  The information provided can help job candidates and current federal employees research which agencies use the program and for what occupations. If you are considering a career in the federal government, an attractive benefit of federal employment is student loan repayment assistance. Do your research and always ask if this benefit is available to you.

Federal agencies are authorized to provide up to $10,000 in loan repayment assistance per calendar year for certain federally-made, insured or guaranteed student loans with a total lifetime cap of $60,000 per employee. In exchange for each year that an employee accepts this benefit, she or he must commit to working for the federal government for an additional three years. If an employee accepts this benefit and leaves (separates either voluntarily or involuntarily) before this period expires, she or he must repay the full amount.

In Calendar Year 2015, 32 federal agencies provided 9,610 employees with a total of more than $69.5 million in student loan repayment benefits. Compared to CY 2014, this represents an 18.4 percent increase in agencies’ overall financial investment in this benefit, and more than a 13  percent increase in the number of employees receiving the benefit. The average student loan repayment benefit in CY 2015 was $7,238, which is a 4.3 percent increase over CY 2014.

The five agencies that provided the most loan repayment assistance in CY 2015 were:

Agency Number of Employees Receiving Benefits Change in Number of Employees Receiving Benefits Total Amount of Assistance Change in Total Assistance from CY 2014
Department of Defense 2,525 42.3%  $19,133,117 57.6%
Department of Justice 1,733 0.3% $14,575,135 13.0%
Department of State 1,431 1.1% $11,285,688 1.3%
Veterans Affairs 898 33.0% $5,661,112 36.5%
Securities and Exchange Commission 727 1.9% $6,381,160 3.4%
Subtotal 7,314   $57,036,212
27 other agencies 2,296  $12,519,596
Total 9,610 13.5% $69,555,808 18.4%

In CY 2015, the Department of Justice and the Department of State used its student loan repayment benefits increasingly in the areas of intelligence and diplomacy, particularly in JD advantage positions Special Agent (587) and Intelligence Analysts (183) at DOJ and Foreign Affairs (224), Foreign Service serving in Political Affairs (133) and Public Diplomacy (110) at DOS.  The Securities and Exchange Commission used the majority of its loan repayment funds on mission critical occupations, with Attorney-Advisor being the largest category of recipients (372 attorneys received benefits in CY 15) and the JD advantage position Securities Compliance Examiner (41).  The Department of Veterans Affairs also used a large portion of funding on the JD advantage positions of Contract Specialists (95) and Human Resource Specialists (151).

Departments and agencies were invited to provide details on their experiences in administrating their programs.  From the comments, it appears more agencies than in previous years are using the student loan payments as a retention rather than a recruitment tool.  There were some exceptions. For example, the Department of the Treasury reported the program is used mostly for hard-to-fill intelligence, legal and policy-related positions. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has made substantial investments in the program since 2001, using it to recruit and retain attorneys, engineers and energy industry analysts. And the Securities and Exchange Commission reported that approximately 72% of student loan repayments were made to employees in mission-critical occupations such as attorneys.

As in previous years, agencies reported the primary barrier to using student loan repayments for recruitment or retention is a lack of overall funding for the program.  Other reported barriers were the corresponding three-year service agreement and the yearly cap of $10,000 on benefits. Some agencies reported that some job candidates or current employees were uncomfortable committing to three years of service in return for the student loan repayment benefit. However, a chief impediment to using the program may be need. Some agencies do not have hard-to-fill jobs or do not have recruitment or retention problems requiring the use of the student loan repayments. And with a hiring freeze on the horizon, it’s likely more agencies will use the program as a retention rather than recruiting tool.

The following departments or agencies provided loan repayment assistance to one or more attorneys: Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, State, Transportation, Treasury, Veterans Affairs, Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, Federal Trade Commission, Government Accountability Office, Library of Congress, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, Postal Regulatory Commission, Securities and Exchange Commission, and Surface Transportation Board.

The following departments or agencies provided loan repayment assistance to one or more JD advantage positions: Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, Veterans Affairs, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Library of Congress, Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, and Securities and Exchange Commission.

In addition to the federal LRAP programs, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) also reported it is working with the Department of Education to educate the federal workforce on the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF). This is good news on two fronts.  First, federal employees across agencies have differing levels of understanding of how PSLF can work for them. With OPM collaborating with human resources personnel across agencies to develop effective strategies for communicating the available options, education on the program can only improve.  Second, through OPM’s collaboration, perhaps some of the issues that have arisen as the first class of individuals come to loan forgiveness can be addressed quickly and in favor of borrowers.

To learn more about the Federal Student Loan Repayment Program, visit opm.gov or contact human resources representatives at the federal agencies in which you are most interested. Click here to view the complete report from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management for Calendar Year 2015.

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