Working in the law enforcement field is not an easy task, but it is often a fulfilling role for those who take on the risk. Several employment opportunities exist for those interested in law enforcement, from local police officers to federal marshalls, making the potential career path quite broad. However, because of the range of positions available to law enforcement, there is no set average or median income one can depend on after completing education requirements to acquire the desired position. That can make it challenging to cover student loan debt once you’re on the job.
Local law enforcement officers may, however, qualify for student loan forgiveness that can help ease the burden of repaying federal student loans. Student loan forgiveness comes in many different forms, and law enforcement officers may qualify based on where they work, the repayment plan they choose, or the types of loans they have yet to repay fully. Options also exist to help law enforcement professionals manage their student loan debt should forgiveness not be the right solution.
Here are the strategies that help individuals in law enforcement pay down or eliminate student loans.
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Public Service Loan Forgiveness For Law Enforcement
One of the most common methods for law enforcement professionals to have student loan debt forgiven is through the public service loan forgiveness program, known as PSLF. Under this program, law enforcement officers who work for a qualifying employer may be eligible to have their federal subsidized or unsubsidized student loans forgiven after making 120 payments.
A qualifying employer is one that operates as a government agency, either on a local or national level, or an organization that is a non-profit in the eyes of the IRS, registered as a 503(c)(3). For example, a campus police officer working for a non-profit college or university may qualify for public student loan forgiveness.
In addition to meeting the employment requirements, law enforcement employees must also work at least 30 hours per week to be eligible for the program. Qualifying payments are also necessary. A qualifying payment for the purpose of PSLF means payments are made under a qualifying repayment plan for the full amount due each billing cycle, and the payment is not more than 15 days past the due date. Law enforcement professionals may take advantage of income-driven or extended repayment plans with their federal student loans and still qualify for public student loan forgiveness.
Once forgiveness takes place after 120 qualifying payments (ten years), remaining federal student loan debt is eliminated once certification is presented to the lender. For law enforcement officers and other borrowers under PSLF, forgiveness is not a taxable event.
Federal Perkins Loan Forgiveness for Law Enforcement
Another option for law enforcement professionals with student loan debt is the Federal Perkins loan forgiveness program. Perkins loans are administered by colleges and universities, not the Department of Education, but they qualify for forgiveness so long as borrowers meet specific criteria.
For those who work in law enforcement full-time, federal Perkins loans are forgivable up to 100 percent of the amount owed, plus interested after five years of eligible service. Similar to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, forgiven loans under the Perkins program are not taxable when they are canceled. Borrowers can check with the college or university that administered the Perkins loans to discuss the process for forgiveness.
Income-Driven Repayment Plan Forgiveness
Several income-driven repayment plans are available to federal student loan borrowers who need some assistance in repaying what they owe. With an income-driven repayment plan, including Income-based Repayment (IBR), Pay As You Earn (PAYE), Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE), and Income-contingent Repayment (ICR), borrowers can extend their total repayment timeline from the standard ten-year schedule up to 20 or 25 years, depending on the plan selected. Monthly payments are calculated based on discretionary income levels, helping keep the minimum payment lower compared to other repayment plans.
A significant benefit to selecting an income-driven repayment plan is the potential for loan forgiveness at the end of the repayment term. Any remaining balance, including interest accrued on the loan, is forgiven after the borrower makes 20 or 25 years of qualifying, on-time payments. It is important to note that income-driven repayment plans are only available to borrowers who have federal student loans. Also, unlike PSLF and Federal Perkins loan cancelation, loan balances forgiven under income-driven repayment plans may be taxable to law enforcement officers as income.
Other Options for Repaying Student Loan Debt Faster
Having student loan balances forgiven after five, ten, 20, or 25 years can be of benefit to law enforcement professionals. However, student loan forgiveness may not be an option for every borrower. For those who have private student loans, or those who do not fall into one of the categories mentioned above, alternatives for repaying student loans faster may be necessary. One way to accomplish that is through student loan refinancing with the help of a private student loan lender.
Refinancing student loan debt is the process of taking out a new, private loan that pays off the outstanding balance of original loans. Under the new loan, borrowers may have an opportunity to extend their repayment term, potentially lowering the total amount due each month. More importantly for some, though, student loan refinancing may offer the benefit of reducing the interest rate charged on the unpaid balance. As stated by LendEDU, as of this writing, student loan refinancing rates range from 2.01% to 9.62%. A lower interest rate translates into a lower total cost of borrowing, making it easier for some borrowers to repay their student loan debt faster.
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Refinancing student loans requires submitting an application to a private student loan lender. Borrowers should have a strong credit score and steady income, or a co-signer with these characteristics, to qualify for the lowest possible interest rate on the new loan. Both federal and private student loans may be refinanced. However, it is crucial to understand that refinancing federal student loans takes away the option for selecting an income-driven repayment plan in the future, or qualifying for student loan forgiveness under the PSLF program.