For graduating college students taking jobs with federal agencies,fears of moving back home and surviving on dehydrated noodles could be eased with the help of a program that repays student loans. Federal employees could be given as much as $6,000 a year and up to $40,000 total for loan repayment. But several government agencies recently were disappointed to find proposed changes to broaden the program were not included in January publication of the regulations.
The Office of Personnel Management,which drafted the original regulations to repay student loans in 1991, is moving to make the program available to more employees as quickly as possible,said an OPM official.
The U.S. Department of Defense wrote changes to the original 1991 regulations in October,but some changes already were being processed by the OPM,said an OPM spokesperson.
The defense department's changes were placed on hold until the initial round of changes was complete,the spokesperson said.
The main amendments to the program broaden who can participate in the program,said an OPM official.
The old law only allowed for administrative,professional and technical employees to receive loan repayments. The proposed changes would allow agencies to offer this incentive to any federal employees.
The idea that OPM is dragging their feet on the matter is a misconception,the spokesperson said. The department simply must follow procedure in making both sets of the changes individually,she said.
While the initial changes were completed in January,the defense department changes that would significantly broaden the program are on hold pending a required public comment period.
The process will be completed as soon as possible. The delay should not have any serious negative effects on recruiting or retaining efforts,the OPM official said.
The original regulations were developed a decade ago as a recruiting and retention tool for employees. Government downsizing at the time resulted in little interest in the program,a spokesperson said. But recent trends emphasizing hiring and retention sparked a desire to broaden the law to be applicable to more government employees.
The program is important to retain and entice in-demand employees that possess specialized skills,said the OPM official.