Wichita Falls Times Record News
WICHITA FALLS, Texas — A state agency is poised to begin providing some peace officers relief from college debt.
On Wednesday, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board announced the September launch of a new repayment program for recently appointed peace officers who have student loan debt.
Many law enforcement agencies have difficulty filling vacant positions for peace officers, state officials said.
Lawmakers created the Peace Officer Loan Repayment Assistance Program in the 86th Legislature to help, and Gov. Greg Abbott signed it into law.
The program is designed to create an incentive for Texans to pursue law enforcement careers and stay on the job to help pay off their student loan debt, officials said.
The legislation defines “peace officer” in the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, which describes 35 positions and roles.
To be eligible to apply for loan repayment assistance through the program, a first-time applicant must meet requirements:
- Have been initially appointed as a full-time peace officer on or after Sept. 1, 2019
- Have completed at least one year of employment as a full-time peace officer in Texas
- Have earned at least 60 credit hours at an eligible Texas higher education institution before initial appointment as a peace officer
Applications for assistance based on service as an eligible peace officer from Sept. 1, 2019 through Aug. 31, 2020, will be available Sept. 1, officials said.
Upon admittance to the loan repayment program, recipients will garner an initial award based on their one year of prior service, officials said.
A successful applicant can receive up to $20,000 in loan repayment assistance over five years. That means $4,000 annually or one-fifth of the outstanding loan balance — whichever is less.
Awards are contingent on available funding, officials said. In the first year of the program, applications will be selected on a first-come-first-served basis until funds run out.
After the first program year, previous year recipients will receive priority, and initial applications will be selected on a first-come-first-served basis until funds run out, officials said.
Additional program requirements are posted on the Peace Officer Loan Repayment Assistance Program’s web page. The Coordinating Board anticipates posting the online application in September.