5 CFR 537.105 - Criteria for payment.
(a) General criteria. Before authorizing student loan repayment benefits for an employee (or job candidate), an agency must make a written determination that -
(1) The employee (or job candidate) is highly qualified and otherwise eligible (as described in § 537.104); and
(i) In a case where the authorization is granted to recruit a job candidate to fill an agency position, the agency otherwise would encounter difficulty in filling a position with a highly qualified individual; or
(ii) In a case where the authorization is granted to retain a current employee of the agency, the employee otherwise is likely to leave the agency for employment outside the Federal service and it is essential to retain the employee based on the employee's high or unique qualifications or a special need of the agency.
(b) Retention considerations. In making a determination under paragraph (a)(2)(ii) of this section, an agency must consider the extent to which the employee's departure would affect the agency's ability to carry out an activity or perform a function that is deemed essential to its mission.
(c) Current Federal employees. An agency may not authorize student loan repayment benefits to recruit an individual from outside the agency who is currently employed in the Federal service.
(d) Selection. When selecting employees (or job candidates) to receive student loan repayment benefits, agencies must ensure that benefits are awarded without regard to race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy and gender identity), national origin, age (as defined by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, as amended), disability, genetic information (including family medical history), marital status, political affiliation, sexual orientation, labor affiliation or nonaffiliation, status as a parent, or any other non-merit-based factor, unless specifically designated by statute as a factor that must be taken into consideration when awarding such benefits, or retaliation for exercising rights with respect to the categories enumerated above, where retaliation rights are available.