Federal agencies made more use of the student loan reimbursement authority for recruitment and retention in calendar year 2015, paying 9,610 employees with a total of more than $69.5 million, increases from 2014 of 13 and 18.4 percent, respectively.

The average student loan repayment benefit was $7,238, close to the $10,000 annual maximum. The lifetime maximum for an individual is $60,000.

As in prior years, use of the authority was concentrated in only a few agencies: Defense, Justice, State, and Veterans Affairs, and the Securities and Exchange Commission accounted for 82 percent of the dollar value and 76 percent of recipients. Another 27 agencies combined to make up the rest.

In its latest annual report on the authority, OPM said it “will continue to work with agencies to assist them in using student loan repayments, as well as other flexibilities. OPM believes the judicious administration of these flexibilities attracts and retains a dynamic federal workforce to support agency missions and program needs.”

OPM said it also is working to publicize a separate program, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, for which public employees including federal employees who have been current on certain student loans for 120 monthly payments will be eligible for forgiveness. That eligibility begins as soon as October 2017.