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  • Writer's pictureNathan Zarcaro

Law Enforcement Student Loan Forgiveness Options

Updated: Apr 2, 2023

Everyday across America, hundreds of thousands of law enforcement officers do their best to keep our country safe. And they oftentimes have to put themselves in harms way to do their jobs. Unpredictable hours, stressful shifts, and life endangering conditions are oftentimes par for the course.

The average police officer earns about $55,600 per year in the United States. Of course, this is going to vary greatly by department, location, and seniority. Of course, many officers also receive benefit packages and oftentimes qualify for pensions as well.

Some Americans are unaware, but many law enforcement personnel have college degrees and are forced to balance the weight of their outstanding student loan balances with the never ending stress of their jobs.

Luckily, there are loan assistance programs out there to help, both on a federal level, as well as on a state level.

What types of law enforcement qualify for loan assistance?

It depends on the program. Generally though, any law enforcement role for the government or a nonprofit is likely to qualify for at least one of the strategies that we will cover below.

Here is a quick list to get started:

  • City/state police departments

  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)

  • Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)

  • National Security Agency (NSA)

  • Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

  • Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

  • Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)

  • Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)

  • College police (if the college or university is not for profit)

This is unlikely to be an all-encompassing list, as other organizations will qualify, such as the United States Marshal's Service and Secret Service.

Student loan forgiveness for law enforcement

As you consider your student loan situation, you'll want to keep in mind your student loan repayment options. As far as your repayment goes your most likely options are:

  1. Public Service Loan Forgiveness

  2. Income-Driven Repayment

  3. Perkins Loan Cancellation

  4. State student loan forgiveness programs

Let's take these one at a time.

1. Public Service Loan Forgiveness

PSLF is likely to be the most lucrative loan assistance program for those that qualify. To gauge prospective eligibility, you'll only need to keep one thing in mind to start. Is your employer:

  1. A registered 501c(3) nonprofit or

  2. A local, state, or federal government

If the answer to either of these questions is "yes," then it is likely that PSLF may be an option for you. In addition to the education requirement, you'll also need to:

  • Have qualifying student debt that is part of the Federal Direct Loan Program

  • Enroll in a PSLF qualifying repayment plan

  • Make 120 qualifying monthly payments after October 1, 2007

Applying for PSLF

Applying for PSLF is an easy task to accomplish. Your first step is to make sure that you're on a PSLF qualifying repayment plan. The easiest way to complete this is to select the income-driven repayment plan that is best for you.

You have four options depending on what type of federal loans you have, and each has slightly different monthly payment calculations and terms. In the event that you qualify for more than one IDR plan, you should select the one that is most financially advantageous for you.

Use the below links to find more information about each plan type:

We've also built a student loan calculator to estimate your payments and forgiveness through the PSLF program. Get yours below!

2. Income-driven repayment for law enforcement

Police and other law enforcement officers can save a lot of money by getting on an income-driven repayment plan.

As you may know, there are currently four applicable programs, and each carries repayment terms of between 20-25 years. After your repayment term is complete, your remaining balance will be forgiven, though the forgiveness may be taxable in the future.

The programs work by taking into account your income and family size to recalculate (lower) monthly payments that work better for you.

Imagine a married police officer that earns $60,000 annually, is married (spouse doesn't work), and has two children. Let's say that this police officer has $35,000 in student loan debt, with an interest rate of 5.2%, and monthly payment of $375 for ten years.

By choosing one of the four available IDR plans - IBR, ICR, PAYE, or REPAYE - you'll likely be able to lower your monthly payments, perhaps substantially.

Under PAYE, for instance, this officer's monthly payments would decrease to a projected $193 per month in year one.

Keep in mind that joining an income-driven repayment plan may require you to consolidate your loans first.

3. Perkins Loan Cancellation

Police, and other professionals with Perkins Loans, may qualify for Perkins Loan Cancellation. Federal Perkins Loans, which are no longer even offered by the federal government, have a specific program in place to help federal borrowers.

If you're a police officer or work in a public service law enforcement role, you may qualify.

All of your Perkins Loans could be forgiven over a period of five years through the following guidelines:

  • 15% after the first year

  • 15% after the second year

  • 20% after the third year

  • 20% after the fourth year

  • 30% after the fifth year

The catch is that you need to have outstanding Perkins Loans to receive any benefits from the program.

State-sponsored student loan forgiveness

As of this time, 48 out of the 50 United States offer unique state based student loan forgiveness guides, including some exclusively for members of law enforcement.

Earlier this year, a bipartisan group of Massachusetts lawmakers proposed ways in which the state could take on student loan payments for law enforcement personnel.

It never hurts to see what options you may have in the state where you reside.

A police car with sirens on

Other student loan strategies for law enforcement

If, for whatever reason, none of these programs are for you, you can still utilize one of the more widely available student loan strategies.

  1. Private refinancing

  2. Federal consolidation

1. Refinancing your federal and private loans

Refinancing is always an option if you're looking for lower monthly student loan payments. You may need to be willing to work with a new lender in order to be eligible, but some maneuvering now could save you big time on your future payments and interest expense.

We typically recommend that you start by checking out your rates with Splash Financial and LendKey, since they are marketplaces that can compare rates from multiple participating lenders at one time. The best part is that the rate checks won't impact your credit score and will only take 2-3 minutes of your time!

2. Federal consolidation

Depending on your end objectives, consolidation also may make sense for you if you're looking to retain the federal rights and protections that are lost once you transition to a private lender.

And depending on what type of federal loans you have, it may be a necessary step in order to gain eligibility for income-driven repayment, and consequently, PSLF.

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About Nathan Zarcaro

Nathan Zarcaro is the founder of The Student Debt Destroyer and is passionate about personal finance related causes.  A 2018 graduate of Providence College's Liberal Arts Honors Program, Nathan studied Finance, and has worked for industry leaders in both finance and healthcare.  In his free time, Nathan enjoys playing golf and traveling with his wife Brigid.

Student loans are hard

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