Police officers are eligible for three federal student loan forgiveness programs:
- the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program
- the Income-Driven Repayment Plan Forgiveness Program
- the Perkins Loan Cancellation Program
These three loan forgiveness programs only apply to federal student loans.
Unfortunately, private lenders don't offer law enforcement officers loan forgiveness. That said, some municipalities, cities, state, and government agencies offer student loan repayment bonuses that may help you pay off your private student loan balance faster.
Of the three forgiveness programs, most police officers will benefit most from the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.
The PSLF Program offers the most student loan forgiveness and is 2x faster than the Income-Driven Repayment Plan Forgiveness Program.
Let's go over the requirements for each program.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program Eligibility for Law Enforcement Employees
All law enforcement employees are eligible for the PSLF Program so long as they work full-time for a municipality, city, state, or government agency.
Your job doesn't matter. All that matters is that you're employed by a government agency (or nonprofit entity). Those two types of employers are considered to be PSLF qualifying employers.
So, for example, if you're a corrections officer, you qualify. Or if you work in dispatch, you qualify. Or if you're the chief of police, you qualify.
In addition to qualifying employment, the PSLF Program has four other requirements:
- You must work full-time.
- You must have federal Direct Loans.
- You must make 120 qualified monthly payments.
- You must make those student loan payments under a qualifying repayment plan.
If you meet those four requirements, the US Department of Education will forgive your federal student loans' remaining balance.
Let me talk quickly about the one requirement I see that kicks people out of the forgiveness program: the Direct Loan requirement.
The PSLF Program offers forgiveness only to student loans made under the Direct Loan Program.
Depending on when you went to school, you may have federal student loans that don't qualify for the PSLF Program. Those nonqualifying loans include loans made under the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program and the Perkins Loan Program.
To turn those non-qualifying loans into qualifying loans, you must consolidate them into a Direct Consolidation Loan. You can consolidate for free at studentaid.gov.
You can read more about each requirement in this article, Student Loan Forgiveness for Public Service.
Income-Driven Repayment Plan Forgiveness for Police Officers
The loan forgiveness offered under the IDR Plans sucks in comparison to what the PSLF Program offers.
Instead of getting student loan forgiveness after 10 years, you'll have to wait 20 to 25 years before your loans are forgiven.
Here's how to qualify for income-based repayment loan forgiveness:
- You must have federal student loans.
- You must make 240 or 300 monthly payments.
The total number of payments you'll have to make before you get loan forgiveness depends on whether you borrowed student loans for graduate school. The federal government requires borrowers who got student loan debt in graduate school to make 300 payments. Borrowers whose loans are solely from undergrad only have to make 240 payments.
When do cops get student loan forgiveness?
Cops get student loan forgiveness under the PSLF Program after making 120 qualifying payments under an income-based loan repayment program.
You make a qualifying payment if:
- You make the payment within 20 days of the due date and
- You make the payment under one of the income-based loan repayment programs.
Any payment you make under the Standard Repayment Plan does not count. You have to make the payment under one of the Revised Pay As You Earn, Pay As You Earn, Income-Based Repayment, or Income-Contingent Repayment plans.
Because it takes 10 years of on-time payments before you get your loans forgiven, you want to track those payments each year.
You can track your payments using the PSLF Employment Certification Form.
Each year, you'll submit a completed form to your loan servicer to certify that you work for a qualifying employer. If you haven't done that yet, you can do it retroactively.