A bill introduced in the North Dakota Legislature would give student loan forgiveness to peace officers working in North Dakota.

The legislation, introduced by Rep. Steve Vetter, R-Grand Forks, would give up to $200 per month in student loan forgiveness to peace officers who have been working in North Dakota for at least a year and who have a student loan through the Bank of North Dakota.

Vetter, a member of the House Judiciary committee, said the bill aims to keep officers in North Dakota. Some new officers have been leaving after two or three years, he said.

“How do we get our cops to stay? Because we certainly don't want to train all the cops and then send them to every other state. That's really kind of what's happening,” Vetter said.

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The cost to educate officers is sometimes two to three times higher than their first year’s salary, Vetter noted. He said that if the officer leaves after a few years, that’s money lost for the state.

“If I was running a business, that would not work well for me if my employees were taking off after two years, if I had put that much money into them,” he said.

The program would also supplement a federal student loan forgiveness program that forgives student loans of public service employees after 10 years, Vetter said.

The more educated officers are, “I think it's a good thing,” Vetter said.

The payment would not exceed the officer's regular monthly loan payment. The State Board of Higher Education would distribute funds directly to the Bank of North Dakota to repay outstanding loan principal balances for eligible applicants.

The bill has bipartisan support from a number of Grand Forks legislators and others, including Democrat Rep. Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks; Rep. Mary Schneider, D-Fargo; and Rep. Claire Cory, R-Grand Forks.

To be eligible for the proposed program, the applicant must be a North Dakota resident and employed as a peace officer in the state for at least a year. Applicants would have to have completed a qualifying educational program and have a student loan with the Bank of North Dakota. The legislation would not require the officer to have graduated from a North Dakota college; however, those who graduated from an out-of-state program would need to refinance their loan through the Bank of North Dakota.