Agencies Provide Insight into Student Loan Repayment Program in OPM Report

A report from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) found that several agencies are making good use of student loan repayment programs as a tool for recruitment and retention. The report details the average amounts given to employees as well.

In March 2018, OPM released a memorandum requesting agencies provide OPM with information regarding student loan repayment programs and details about their experiences with the programs. The report for CY 2017 was completed in June 2019 and released.

Overall in 2017, 34 federal agencies provided 10,206 employees with student loan repayment benefits, totaling more than $74.9 million. This amount is an increase of 3.4 percent in the number of employees receiving benefits from CY 2016 and a 4.6 percent increase in the financial investment for these programs.

During 2017, over 80 percent of benefit costs went to just seven agencies: the U.S. Departments of Defense, Justice, and State, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Departments of Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs, and Housing and Urban Development.

Employees of these agencies also represented 79.5 percent of all student loan repayment recipients government-wide.

The remaining 27 agencies provided 2,088 employees with $14 million in student loan repayment benefits.

Agencies overwhelmingly supported the program with some calling it “invaluable” and “an essential part” of recruitment and retention.

The report notes one example from the U.S. Department of Agriculture where the agency reported, “their student loan repayment program continues to be an effective recruitment and retention aid for hiring and retaining employees in critical and hard-to-fill positions. Their student loan repayment program has been an especially effective incentive tool for veterinarians given, in particular, the large debts many students incur while completing a school of veterinary medicine.”

Similarly, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board reported that student loan repayment options allow the board to compete with the private sector for top talent.

The report concludes, “One of the most important priorities for Federal agencies is attracting and retaining well qualified, high-performing employees. Student loan repayments can be a valuable human resources tool that can enable agencies to recruit highly-qualified candidates into Federal service and to keep talented employees in the Federal workforce. Agencies should tailor their use of student loan repayments to meet their specific goals while ensuring that the financial outlay is commensurate with the benefits gained.”

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