There have been several rumors going around for years about the perks members of Congress receive while serving in office and after their term ends, including whether or not they get free health insurance for life — they don’t, and if they get a pension equal to their full salary after one year of service, which is also not true, according to the Congressional Institute.
VERIFY viewer Sandra R. says she has heard that the children of Congressional members are not required to repay their student loans, and she wants to know if that claim is true or false.
Are the children of members of Congress exempt from repaying their student loans?
No, the children of members of Congress are not exempt from repaying their student loans.
WHAT WE FOUND
In 2019, the VERIFY team debunked a viral “chain message” that was making its rounds on social media in which people were petitioning for a 28th Amendment that would hold members of Congress accountable to the same laws as all other Americans.
One of the claims from the chain message stated that children and staffers of members of Congress are exempt from paying back their student loans.
VERIFY found that the claim is false and likely stems from a real hiring practice known as the federal student loan repayment program.
“The Federal student loan repayment program permits agencies to repay Federally insured student loans as a recruitment or retention incentive for candidates or current employees of the agency,” according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM). “The program implements 5 U.S.C. 5379, which authorizes agencies to set up their own student loan repayment programs to attract or retain highly qualified employees.”
OPM says on its website that any federal employee is eligible for the federal student loan repayment program “except those occupying a position excepted from the competitive civil service because of their confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating nature.”
This means members of Congress cannot benefit from this program. Also, because this program only applies to employees of federal agencies, it does not provide student loan forgiveness to the children of members of Congress either.
Meanwhile, a Congressional Institute spokesperson pointed VERIFY to one of the many Congressional myths their team has busted on its website: “Members of Congress do not need to pay student loans.”
“Members of Congress are responsible for paying for their student loans. The House and Senate have programs that contribute toward the repayment of loans for lower-paid Congressional employees, but federal law excludes members of the House and Senate from participating. This program is similar to ones found throughout the private sector as an employee perk,” according to the Congressional Institute. “Congress, unlike the rest of the federal government and most large employees, does not have a tuition reimbursement program, and ethics laws prohibit members from taking college courses without paying full tuition.”
The Congressional Institute spokesperson says that while there is an additional benefit that may be offered to Congressional staff members earning less than $100,000 per year “where a certain amount will be paid toward that staffer’s student loans during the term of their employment in the office,” there is no provision in place for the children of members of Congress.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, all federal student loan borrowers are required to repay their loan(s) and any accrued interest and fees. However, the agency does offer flexible repayment plans, loan consolidation and forgiveness programs to those with federal student loans at StudentAid.gov.