The U.S. Department of Education on Friday informed staff in the Office of Federal Student Aid, the arm of the agency that handles grants and loans to college students, that buyouts are being offered to shrink the division.
In a memo obtained by The Washington Post, the department said it received approval from the Office of Personnel Management to offer early retirement and voluntary separation incentive payments. The offer, according to the memo, does not extend to all positions. Eligible employees will receive an email from human resources by Wednesday.
The so-called separation incentive is a lump sum payment made to workers who choose to leave through resignation or retirement. In most cases, the maximum an employee receives is $25,000, an amount that is subject to taxes. Employees who accept the buyout are not allowed to work for the federal government for five years, unless they choose to repay the separation award.
Voluntary early retirement, on the other hand, does not include a lump sum payment and allows federal employees to retire before they reach a certain age and years of service. Employees can retire at age 50 with 20 years of service or at any age with 25 years of service, but with a possible reduction in benefits.
Employees in positions that are eligible for either option will have 14 days to make a decision, according to the memo. Those who opt for early retirement or a buyout will be out the door before the first week of the new year is over.
The move falls in line with President Trump’s executive order in March to reorganize and streamline agencies throughout the federal government, but it arrives at a time when staffing at the department is already dwindling. The Office of Federal Student Aid, which has roughly 1,400 people on staff, lost roughly 24 employees from December through mid-June, according to the database FedScope. It is the largest division within the department.
“These are voluntary programs, offered throughout the government and across administrations, that employees can choose to participate in if they feel it is the best option for them and if approved by” the Office of Personnel Management, said Liz Hill, spokeswoman for the Education Department.