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 apply only to federal student loans.
Most police officers will benefit most from the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program of the three forgiveness programs.
The PSLF Program offers the most student loan forgiveness for police officers.
It's also 2x faster than the forgiveness offered under the income-driven loan repayment plans.
Let's go over the requirements for each program.
PSLF eligibility for law enforcement employees
Full-time law enforcement employees can qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness if they work full-time for a municipality, city, state, or government agency.
Your job in the criminal justice field doesn't matter.
All that matters is that you have full-time employment with a government agency (or non-profit organization).
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 are eligible. Or, if you're the chief of police, you are eligible.
PSLF Limited Waiver Opportunity
On October 6, 2021, the Department of Education announced a change to PSLF program rules through October 31, 2022, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now through Halloween 2022, you can receive credit towards PSLF and TEPSLF for past payments made on loans that otherwise might not qualify for PSLF.
Past payments may now count as qualifying payments. Loan type, repayment plan, full payments, and on-time payments are no longer barriers for PSLF. The only thing you now need is qualifying employment.
Learn More: Limited PSLF Waiver Opportunity Explained
PSLF program requirements
In addition to qualifying employment, the PSLF Program has four other requirements (unless you take advantage of the Limited Waiver Opportunity):
- 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.
Eligible loans for forgiveness
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.
Part-time law enforcement employees can qualify for public service loan forgiveness
Law enforcement professionals can qualify for the PSLF Program even if they work part-time.
To qualify, you must:
- work a combined average of at least 30 hours per week
- work those hours for a qualifying employer
A qualifying employer is any municipality, city, state, or government agency, or non-profit organization recognized by the IRS.
How to apply for the PSLF Program
Police officers can apply for loan forgiveness under the PSLF Program after making their 120th qualifying, on-time payment.
To help your loan servicer keep track of your monthly payments, I suggest you complete the Employment Certification Form annually.
The Employment Certification Form is a document signed by an official at your job certifying that you work for a qualifying employer.
You can submit the form to your student loan servicer when you apply for you submit your annual student loan recertification.
Download the PSLF Employment Certification Form
IDR loan forgiveness for police officers
The loan forgiveness offered under the IDR Plans pales in comparison to what the PSLF Program provides.
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 enroll in an income-driven repayment plan.
- You must make 240 or 300 qualifying payments.
All federal student loans are eligible for loan forgiveness under an income-driven repayment plan:
- Direct Subsidized Loans
- Direct Unsubsidized Loans
- Direct Plus Loans
- Parent Plus Loans
- Federal Family Education Loans (FFELP)
Federal Perkins Loans qualify for loan forgiveness only if you consolidate them into a Direct Consolidation Loan.
Income-driven repayment plan
The student loan repayment programs that offer loan forgiveness are the:
- Revised Pay As You Earn Plan (REPAYE)
- Pay As You Earn Plan (PAYE)
- Income-Based Repayment Plan (IBR)
- Income-Contingent Repayment Plan (ICR)
Neither the Standard Repayment plan nor the Extended or Graduated Repayment Plans offer loan forgiveness.
Your monthly payments under an IDR Plan are qualifying payments if you make the payment within 15 days of the due date.
Payments made while in a deferment or forbearance do not count as qualifying payments.
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.
Do correction officers qualify for loan forgiveness?
Correctional officers qualify for loan forgiveness of their federal student loan debt. The main loan forgiveness for correctional officers occurs under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Under this program, a correctional officer who works full-time for the government or non-profit organization can get the entire balance of their Direct Loans forgiven.
Private student loan forgiveness for law enforcement officers
Unfortunately, private lenders don't offer law enforcement officers loan forgiveness. That said, some municipalities, cities, states, and government agencies provide student loan repayment bonuses that may help you pay off your private student loan balance faster.
If you can't afford the monthly payments on your private student loans, refinancing for a better interest rate may be a option.
You'll typically need a minimum credit score of 680 to refinance.