The PLU Pledge program—which helps incoming first-year students pay off student loans after graduation—will enter its second year as a pilot program during the 2019-20 academic year.
The goal is to allow students to choose post-graduation careers based on their passion, rather than the size of their paycheck. PLU is aware that the cost of college and the idea of student debt – especially at a private university – can be overwhelming to students and their families.
That’s why the PLU Pledge was created.
“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.”
The program, launched during the 2018-19 year, is still in its pilot phase. It’s an experiment aimed at providing a safety net for students who are uncertain if their future initial income after graduating will be enough to repay student loans.
Here’s how it works: If a student enrolled in the PLU Pledge program earns less than $43,000 annually following graduation from PLU, the university will help the student repay student loans until the student’s income reaches the $43,000 mark. The PLU Pledge covers all federal direct and private alternative student loans, as well as parent PLUS loans.
The percentage of reimbursement offered is based on a sliding scale, depending on the recipient’s post-graduation income.
PLU Pledge is free to students who enroll upon entering the university. PLU will help graduates earning less than the income threshold make their loan payments, so long as they graduate within six chronological years and retain full-time employment within 18 months of graduating.
This is a mission-driven partnership...students can choose jobs based on vocation, not pay.
- Melody Ferguson, Director of Admission
The program is not available to students intending to major in nursing, nor is it available to international or transfer students. PLU nursing graduates have a nearly 100-percent success rate finding employment soon after graduation, and their average beginning salary is greater than the eligibility threshold.
The pilot program launched in partnership with the LRAP (Loan Repayment Assistance Program) Association. PLU was the first institution in Washington state to go all in on a partnership with LRAP, which was created more than 30 years ago to provide support to students interested in using their degrees in public service and other lower-paying positions.
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.
The PLU Pledge program is expected to improve the university’s retention and enrollment.
“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.”