Considering a career in law enforcement? Besides the satisfaction of serving the public good, one benefit of doing so may be the opportunity to take advantage of the student loan forgiveness program for police officers.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness may offer loan forgiveness of Direct Loans for police officers and other government employees. Also known as “PSLF,” the program started in 2007 and may offer federal student loan forgiveness for police officers who have made 120 qualifying on-time payments and who are working full-time. (You can see all of the qualifications here .)
This means that if you’re a police officer who works for the government and successfully makes ten years of qualifying payments, you may be eligible to have the remainder of your debt wiped out entirely after your 120th payment.
Of course, this option is not available to everyone. To qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, you must work for a qualifying employer. Generally, government organizations may be considered qualifying employers for the purpose of PSLF, which means that if you work for tribal, city, county, state, or federal law enforcement, you may qualify for public service loan forgiveness.
And because Public Service Loan Forgiveness is not just limited to police officers, other staff at these agencies may qualify for PSLF, too—even if you’re not on the frontlines. One important thing to note about PSLF eligibility is that detention officers who work at for-profit prisons are not eligible because they work for a private company and not the government or non-profit.
To be sure that your job is considered public service under the PSLF program, you can submit a PSLF employment certification form . The PSLR certification form is used by the government to confirm that your current job qualifies for PSLR benefits.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness Requirements
In addition to restrictions on the type of employment that is eligible for PSLF, there are other criteria you must meet in order to take advantage of this student loan forgiveness for police officers.
First, your student loans must be Direct Loans, borrowed from the federal government. Private student loans are not eligible for loan forgiveness under PSLF.
Additionally, you may be required to consolidate your federal student loans before you qualify for PSLF. Consolidation is a process by which you combine all of your federal student loans like Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, or PLUS Loans, into one new loan.
Further, you must work full-time in order to qualify for PSLF. That means that in addition to working for a qualified employer, you also need to be employed full-time, which is generally 30 hours or more per week.
There is one exception to this requirement, however: If you work part-time for two different qualifying employers and you work more than thirty hours per week between the two jobs, you may still qualify for PSLF.
Finally, in order to take advantage of the PSLF for law enforcement, you must make 120 qualifying student loan payments. That means that even if you’re working full-time for a qualified employer and plan to take advantage of PSLF, you are still responsible for paying back your student loans for ten years.
PSLF only forgives the amount of your student loan remaining after the ten years of qualifying payments. And if you miss a month or are more than 15 days late in making your payment, that month won’t count towards your 120 total payments, which means that you could end up making more than 120 payments before the government clears your loans for loan forgiveness.
The one bright side here is that the 120 monthly payments you are responsible before you can qualify for PSLF can be on any valid federal loan repayment plan. This means that you may be able to choose a plan that keeps your monthly payments relatively low until your 120 payments are complete.
Perkins Loan Forgiveness for Police Officers
Perkins Loans, which were offered until September 2017, may also eligible for forgiveness if you consolidate them into a Direct Consolidation Loan. Perkins Loans were administered and distributed by your college, which often means that borrowers end up paying one student loan payment to the federal government and one to their alma mater. Under the Perkins Loan program , certain employment such as law enforcement officers and teachers may qualify for a full or partial Perkins Loan cancellation.
To qualify for forgiveness of your Perkins Loans, you must be employed full-time as a law-enforcement officer or in another qualifying position. If you qualify for Perkins Loan forgiveness, a certain percentage of your loans will be forgiven each year of full-time qualifying employment as follows:
Year 1: Forgiveness of 15% of your loan.
Year 2: Forgiveness of 15% of your loan.
Year 3: Forgiveness of 20% of your loan.
Year 4: Forgiveness of 20% of your loan.
Year 5: Forgiveness of 30% of your loan.
That’s right, after five years of qualifying employment, you could be eligible to get up to 100% of your Perkins Loan forgiven if you’re a law enforcement officer. On top of that, you may not have to pay your Perkins Loans while you hold a qualifying job, which can mean you might end up never paying back a penny of your Perkins loan.
Because colleges independently disbursed Perkins Loans, each school also runs its own forgiveness program. To see if you qualify, reach out to your school’s billing department.
Loan Refinancing for Law Enforcement Officials
For law enforcement officials who don’t qualify for PSLF, student loan refinancing may be able to help you lower the cost of your student loan repayment. Loan refinancing is one of the few ways to potentially decrease the amount of interest you’re paying on your student loan. If you qualify, lowering your interest rate can add up to some serious savings over the life of your loan—depending on your loan term, naturally.
Refinancing student loans involves taking out a new, private loan to pay off your existing federal and private loans.
Although it may seem counterintuitive to save money by taking on new debt, loan refinancing is premised on the idea that you may be able to secure a better interest rate than the current rate on your student loans.
If you’re instead burdened by high loan payments and are looking to free up some cash every month, refinancing may also help you to consolidate multiple student debts into one new loan with one, hopefully lower, monthly payment (although this typically comes with a lengthening of your term and more interest paid over the life of your new loan).
Additionally, student loan refinancing allows you to focus on paying off your loan over a fixed time period, meaning that you won’t be stuck paying interest on your loans for the rest of your life.
Of course, not all law enforcement officials will benefit from refinancing, particularly those planning on taking advantage of Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Make sure to do your due diligence when picking out a loan repayment plan that is right for you, but in general, there are many loan repayment and loan forgiveness options available to law enforcement, which means you can focus on your job instead of your loans.
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