Ashley Strange travels to universities and community colleges each week to try to recruit candidates for the Orange County Department in Orlando, Florida.
When she finishes a presentation, the line of questioning is very predictable.
“The first thing they want to know is if they need a university degree to become a police officer,” said Strange, a sergeant in the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. “Then, at one point or another, the discussion is about whether there is a way to help pay for their university education.
“That’s when I mentioned the public service forgiveness program and they all looked at me like, ‘Huh? What is it?'”
The Public Service Loan Waiver (PSLF) program is a valuable, but somewhat publicized, tool for college graduates trying to find ways to repay their student loan debt. It was created in 2007 with the specific purpose of encouraging students to pursue careers in government agencies or non-profit organizations with the status of 501 (c) (3) in exchange for the cancellation of a party. of their student loans.
“But hardly anyone knows,” said Strange. “It’s really amazing the number of places I go and the few who have heard of it. I talk about it during my presentation and you can see people nodding, but that’s because it’s the first time they’ve heard about it. “
Public service loan forgiveness for police officers, firefighters, teachers, nurses, social workers and jobs held by most community service agencies are among the many classifications eligible for the PSLF program. As a general rule, any job in a city, county, state or government agency is eligible, regardless of the position held.
How Law Enforcement Qualifies for the Pardon of a Public Service Loan
However, certain conditions must be met in order to benefit from any remission of debt.
First, you must make 120 one-time payments on your student loan. The second major requirement is that you must work full time in a qualified agency for each of these payments.
This only applies to students receiving a direct federal loan or a direct consolidated loan. Private loans are not eligible for the PSLF program.
The PSLF program is a lifesaver for police officers, many of whom can not continue or complete their university education until they have started working. The debate over whether police officers really need a university degree to do their job has always been tough, but Bureau of Labor statistics indicate that more and more cops are taking this route, especially those who hope to be promoted.
Although the majority of police services require only a secondary school diploma, the Labor Office reports that 30% of current patrol officers and 41% of detectives and supervisors have a bachelor’s degree.
The percentage of new officers with a university degree at the Orange County Sheriff’s Office is even higher. In the past five years, 176 out of 31 (56%) MPs have a bachelor’s or master’s degree.
Strange, who received her BA and Master’s Degree from the University of Central Florida, thinks that schools and government agencies could do a better job in educating students and employees about the benefits of the PSLF. She said she seldom saw literature or leaflets about it on her campus or during her office visits, but that she was relentlessly promoting it, especially with other police officers.
“Student loans are probably the most common debt among officers in our department,” Strange said. “We have people who have not finished their education and are worried about getting more loans, but there are ways to pay for them and the Public Service Loan Exemption Program is definitely a program I’m talking about. everybody.”