OPM: Student loans can pay off

The Office of Personnel Management has stepped up efforts to get agencies to use the federal student loan repayment program as an employee recruitment and retention tool.

Speaking last week at a forum in Washington, D.C., on the federal student loan repayment program, OPM officials said that, in fiscal 2004, 28 federal agencies provided 2,945 employees with a total of more than $16.4 million in student loan repayment benefits.

"Agencies are utilizing the student loan repayment program more than they have in the past, but there is still more that can be done," said Linda Springer, OPM’s director, in a statement released Aug. 8.

Under Title 5 Section 5379 of the U.S. Code, federal agencies can repay as much as $10,000 for an employee in a calendar year and up to $60,000 for any single employee. In return, that employee must agree to work at least three years at the agency that is repaying the loans.

OPM's latest report to Congress showed a significant increase in agencies’ use of the student loan repayment program for the last three fiscal years. Federal agencies spent 79 percent more on the program during fiscal 2004 than in the previous year.

Last year, the report shows, federal agencies spent more than five times as much on student loan repayments as in fiscal 2002, the program's first year.

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