The federal government helped repay more than $58.7 million of its employees’ student loans last year, according to a report from the Office of Personnel Management. That’s an 11% increase in what government agencies contributed to employees’ debt repayment in 2013, and 15% more employees received the benefit: 8,469 in 2014, compared to 7,314 in 2013.
Those figures have previously been higher — 10,543 employees received $70.3 million in 2012 — but budget problems reportedly made it more difficult for agencies to offer the incentive in recent years. Still, for the thousands of employees who received loan assistance last year, the perk can be a huge help. The average student loan payment in 2014 was $6,937, down from $7,233 in 2013.
Federal agencies have offered loan repayment assistance for more than a decade, but as more and more people take on increasingly large amounts of student loan debt to finance their educations, the program’s popularity has grown (in 2001, only one agency reported authorizing a student loan payment, according to earlier reports from the OPM). The amount of help employees can receive has also increased, and borrowers can now receive up to $10,000 in loan payments from their government employer each year (limited to $60,000 overall) on certain federal student loans. The employee must stay at the agency for three years to qualify.
How Can I Get Help With My Student Loans?
Given that about 70% of bachelor’s degree recipients graduate with an average of $28,400 in student loan debt, student loan repayment programs are an attractive perk to much of today’s workforce. If you’re among this indebted population, it’s worth researching companies who offer such programs and asking potential employers how they might be able to help you pay down your debt.
There are also student loan forgiveness programs for people in certain career fields, so take the time to see if you qualify. You may be able to save tens of thousands of dollars.
Whether or not you’re getting help repaying your education debt, it’s crucial to stay on top of your loans. Student loans can affect your ability to buy a car or house, because missing payments will hurt your credit score.