Student loans and debt in good standing and clearances

Hi All,
I have read what I could about student loans and asked around as much as possible with people who might know (who have gotten clearances, etc). At this point, I have a LOT of student loans - we are talking hundreds of thousands. However, I have a doctoral degree and a master’s degree both from a private institution. I finished all my degrees and am trying to get a good federal job to pay the loans off! I have done my best to be on an income based plan, done forbearance when I couldn’t make payments, etc. As far as I know, all my loans are up to date and in good standing. I have never defaulted or been delinquent on them. I frequently check my credit and loans and follow up. My husband and I also have shared credit card debt, one card gets paid off in full every month, I have two cards of mine which I am paying down/off, I put a lot of medical bills on them (it was for a sleep study and other expensive things related to medical stuff). I am making payments and getting it down.

I recently got hired for a federal job, specifically with DoD. I got the tentative offer, did the initial HR stuff, and the fingerprints and Eqip/SF86. I am just really worried the debt will hold me back. It sounds like from what I read they worry more about people who default and are delinquent. I just have a very HIGH amount of student loan debt. But I make payments, albeit they have not been high (I’ve worked in nonprofit jobs and community mental health…doesn’t pay much!) and I know a federal job would help me so much in so many ways. Does anyone have any experience with this? Friends of mine in similar situations with loans have gotten through clearances just fine, I just am not sure if I should prepare myself for problems.

Also, anyone know how long it takes to get an interim clearance once fingerprints clear? I am in a bit of a rock and a hard place. I know I am not supposed to quit my job before I have the formal offer letter. However, I have to sign a contract for said job in a few weeks (I teach at a college) and I am not sure what to do. I can’t really get stuck in a contract if I have to leave. The uncertainty is so hard, but such is life.

Thanks for reading!

First things first, please do not resign from your job until your clearance is completed. Also, if you total payments on the loans and unsecured debts is no more than 20 percent of your income you may be ok. At least your current.

Having worked for 32 years with the FEDS the bench mark has always been “Honoring Just Debts.” Seems you are doing that. Have a lot of Student debt? Welcome to America. I do not think this will be an issue, it appears you are doing all the right things.

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Many of us go through similar circumstances with jobs fluctuating while waiting for a clearance. I think you have a chance at getting a clearance because you have kept up on payments BUT, I highly doubt you will get an interim with that high of debt. They turn down interim’s for anything that could be a red flag. Over 100k in debt is definitely a red flag. Do not count on this employment. This process could take you two years (that’s how long I waited). You have a chance of getting cleared but do not consider yourself in the position until you are cleared and have a start date. They will tell you when to quit your current job, the time is not now.

I also have a couple hundred thousand in student debt from an undergrad and two graduate degrees from private institutions. Additionally, I have over $20k in credit card debt from student-related expenses. I am making on-time payments with the student loans and am in a debt management program to help pay down the credit card debt in a shorter period of time. I received a favorably adjudicated TS/SCI with the DoD. However, each agency has its own criteria, and I am now worried about getting the same clearance and access with an IC org who is more finicky about finances. I suppose the good news is that I haven’t heard of anyone being denied suitability OR clearance for simply having a lot of student debt despite making consistent, on-time payments— I could be wrong of course. If so, I would love to hear an anecdote that implies otherwise.

TLDR: For a TS with the DoD, you should be alright with that amount of student loan debt as long as you are in good standing and there aren’t any other red flag issues in your packet.

As long as you are paying your debt(s) and no items are going delinquent or to collections you are fine. Finances start to become an issue in the clearance world when you stop paying your bills. When I worked federal civil service (won’t say what agency), I witnessed firsthand a couple of folks removed for financial issues. Moral of the story, pay your bills.

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These issues shouldn’t prevent you from getting a clearance. An interim though is questionable.

Is the contract that you need to sign for the semester or the year? I assume that you are teaching and not in administration which leads me to believe that you could leave in December/January. Talk with your contact at the new job and discuss with them. They may be willing to allow you finish the semester even if you get an interim. You may have to deal with this again in January. Clearances are taking that long.

Thank you so much for being specific about the contract thing, that is the main issue that I think some have trouble understanding - I am in a really sticky spot between commitments. I do teach. My current employment situation: I have classes lined up as an adjunct which I will have to sign a contract for. I also just interviewed for a tenure position. It kind of sounds like they are going to offer it, because they checked my references. I’m not sure what kind of contract I would sign for that. I ended up talking to a co-worker from my job and told her the situation. She is not on the hiring committee but gave me one of the references I needed. She understood and told me that if I had to leave in the middle of the year, they will figure it out. I’m not sure if the hiring committee for the tenure thing will still want me, but I’m going to be transparent. Worse case scenario, I just teach the adjunct classes and make less money and I might have to leave in the middle of the semester. The semester would end in December like you said. I had initially expected the clearance process to take months, but the HR person indicated it wouldn’t be that long, because they were just waiting on my fingerprints (and apparently there’s a huge backup with processing those). My understanding is that they have to clear the prints first and then they can initiate the clearance investigation. I am not 100% sure what kind of clearance I am needing, I had to do an eqip/SF86 so i have heard that is a TS? My job is mental health related (i am providing services).

I really don’t have anything else that should be a red flag on the background information, other than my student loans. I never really imagined they could stop me from getting a job. It’s really stressful and upsetting to imagine that, but your posts have been really reassuring that it should be okay. I guess at the end of the day, I have no control of this, and just have to do what I need to do and accept an outcome.

Don’t misunderstand me! Don’t burn bridges at the college. Do you want a tenure track position or do you want the government job? Sign whatever contracts you need to and provide notice if you have to leave. There’s not much that they can do to you except refuse to hire you back.

You might need to make a decision about which way you want your career to go.

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Stay in the payment plan and all should be okay. With that education I assume (bad move my part) you are up for a decent salaried position enabling you to make significant payments. Please do so. Folks who make the $25 payments on 150K of debt aren’t getting anywhere fast. However if that is the minimum payment acceptable at least make that. My point is those with excessive education who seek entry level non education related position seem to have bigger problems as they will not earn enough money to properly pay on the debt. So as long as you make sincere payments to tackle this debt I believe you will be okay.

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Hi, I hope it didn’t read like I misunderstood you. I don’t intend to burn any bridges. I’m being honest and telling them right now so that they know. They know I want to stay as long as I can and help them transition. I didn’t speak to the hiring committee, I spoke to a coworker who is in another department (I teach in two departments). I honestly want the government job more. There are many reasons 1) it’s an exciting career move 2) in a more affordable geographical location 3) opportunitew for loan repayment help.

Thanks so much for your feedback. I was really grateful that you acknowledged the contract stuff. I think many people don’t understand my situation, at least not people in my world!

Nothing wrong with keeping your eye out for new opportunities and increased pay and loan support. Even if you accept a position, if a better one appears you need weigh the risk of leaving. Some agencies may recoup loan payments if you do not stay long.

@amberbunny This might be getting too far into the weeds, but what the heck: If someone has been in adjudication for several months for a TS/SCI, and their student loan repayment status for several federal student loans has changed from “deferred” to “repayment,” should that person notify their security program officer of their being in repayment?


Nope. But…do start making the required payments. Student loans and medical debt seem to be the largest percent of un-addressed debt I see. That is legit debt we just aren’t servicing (paying). As long as you begin and continue to make the required payments, you are fine.

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What about refinancing your debt. which will require that they look at your credit score. Will they all of a sudden question why your student loans have been paid off if you are consolidating your debt. I am debating doing this for other debt as well.

Of course not . . . People refinance debt all of the time and the NEW loan will show up on your credit report while the old loans will show as having been paid off. This happens every day.

Thank you. I wasnt sure.

Hey Amberbunny,

By stating that student loans are “un-addressed debt”, do you mean that it’s debt that adjudicators “turn a blind eye” compared to credit card debt which is mostly seen as bad debt?