OPM has told agencies to report on their calendar year 2018 use of student loan reimbursements, one authority agencies can use to attract and keep employees in high-demand occupations where basic salaries are not competitive with the private sector’s.
Under the program, an agency can pay an employee up to $10,000 a year and up to $60,000 lifetime to be used pay off certain types of student loans. OPM wants information by March 31 including the numbers of recipients, their occupations, and amounts paid.
“We also invite you to share any additional information regarding best practices, lessons learned, program effectiveness, or metrics used to measure program success. We would also appreciate your input on how agencies can best establish and justify each business case, as well as how to address and resolve program impediments. Your agency may provide relevant details about your agency’s use of the student loan repayment authority as an effective recruitment or retention tool,” a memo said. Agencies that didn’t use the authority are to explain why not, and whether they have a policy in place that would allow its use or are planning to have one.
Traditionally, use of the authority has been concentrated in just a few agencies, mainly DoD, VA, Justice, State and the SEC. By occupation, payments most commonly are in engineering, contracting, nursing and certain other medical-related fields, special agents, foreign affairs, attorney-advisers, accountants, HR, health science and various types of analysts.
OPM has not yet issued the report covering calendar year 2017. The report covering 2016 showed that 34 agencies paid such incentives to nearly 10,000 employees totaling about $72 million—both up by about 3 percent over the prior year.