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PLU Pledge offers post-graduate safety net to help Lutes fearlessly pursue vocation

Posted by: / October 5, 2017
campus picture in front of the administration building

Image: Photo by John Froschauer/PLU

By Kari Plog '11
PLU Marketing & Communications

TACOMA, WASH. (Oct. 5, 2017)- Pacific Lutheran University has launched a free loan-repayment program to relieve some of the post-graduate financial burden, better positioning students to fearlessly pursue their passions.

The PLU Pledge: A Lute Loan Safety Net offers incoming students reimbursement for their student-loan payments should they need assistance making those payments after graduation.

The program is in partnership with LRAP (Loan Repayment Assistance Program) Association. PLU is the first and only institution in Washington state to go all in on a partnership with LRAP, which was created more than 30 years ago to provide post-graduate financial security to students interested in using their degrees in public service and other lower-paying positions.

“This is a mission-driven partnership,” said Melody Ferguson, director of admission. “This allows students to take lower-paying jobs they are passionate about without fear of falling behind financially. They can choose jobs based on vocation, not pay.”

PLU Pledge is free to students who enroll upon entering the university, starting in the 2018-19 academic year. PLU will help graduates earning less than $40,000 per year make their loan payments, so long as they graduate within six chronological years and retain employment within 18 months thereafter. The assistance is guaranteed until an individual’s income exceeds that amount or the loans are paid off. The PLU Pledge applies to any federal or alternative student loans, as well as parent PLUS loans. The percentage of reimbursement is offered on a sliding scale, depending on the recipient’s income.

The average PLU student leaves the university with about $31,000 in debt; that’s similar to the national average for graduates of both public and private institutions. Close to 70 percent of PLU students borrow money to help fund their education.

PLU administrators know those numbers can be daunting, even with the available scholarships. “We pursued this program because we care how students borrow,” Ferguson said. “We don’t want to enable over-borrowing. The PLU Pledge tells our students that if they persist, graduate and maintain employment, we’re here to hold up our end of the deal and help them succeed financially and otherwise, even after they’ve left campus.”

"This is a mission-driven partnership. This allows students to take lower-paying jobs they are passionate about without fear of falling behind financially. They can choose jobs based on vocation, not pay."- Director of Admission Melody Ferguson

Graduates must maintain full-time employment of at least 30 hours per week, which may include multiple jobs. The program is expected to improve the university’s retention and enrollment, meaning the PLU Pledge will ultimately pay for itself.

“We predict a 10 percent increase in first-year students in the next incoming class as a result of this additional assistance,” Ferguson said.  

Julian Franco, assistant director of admission, recently introduced PLU Pledge during a presentation at the Washington Council Counselor Workshops, where high school counselors statewide gather to hear status reports from colleges and receive other updates.

“You could practically hear jaws dropping when I told them,” Franco said of the response. “They had so many questions. That’s when I knew this program is a game changer.”