WASHINGTON, DC – House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) released the following statement today in support of the Federal Employee Student Loan Assistance Act (S. 926). The Act would increase the annual amounts that federal agencies can offer employees to help repay student loans and will be considered on the House Floor today:
“I strongly support the Federal Employee Student Loan Assistance Act which will increase the annual and aggregate amounts that federal agencies can offer a qualified employee to assist in repaying a student loan. The current repayment amount for an employee is limited to $6,000 per year and $40,000 total. This legislation would raise the annual amount to $10,000 and the aggregate amount to $60,000, reflecting an increase in annual college tuition costs since the enactment of the original statute in 1991.
“Repayment of student loans, as a recruitment and retention incentive, helps offsets the higher salaries offered by the private sector. Repayment is a powerful tool for restructuring the federal civilian workforce to meet changing mission needs. Without this additional authority, rising tuition costs would lessen the competitive value of this recruitment and retention tool.
“However, I am concerned with the lack of funding available to agencies to effectively use this important recruitment and retention tool. Without adequate funding, federal agencies are limited in their ability to hire or provide appropriate retention incentives to talented federal employees who are strong candidates for the program. According to the Office of Personnel Management report entitled ‘Federal Student Loan Repayment Program--Fiscal Year 2002: Report to the Congress,’ of the 16 agencies that have used this authority, most have awarded student loan repayment to a small number of individuals.
“If the Federal Employee Student Loan Assistance Act is to fulfill its purpose, Congress must appropriate the necessary funds. I look forward to working with my colleagues to secure funding for the repayment of student loans for federal employees. Only then will the federal government be able to effectively compete with the private sector and recruit and retain talented individuals.
“We must find ways to encourage government service. Ensuring that student loan debt is not an impediment to the federal government being an employer of choice is an important step.”