Getting Public Service Loan Forgiveness

If you work for a government or a non-profit organization, you may be eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. Qualifying for PSLF is possible, but you must be proactive to ensure you are on the right track.

How do I qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program?

PSLF forgives the balance of your federal student loans after you make 120 (10 years) “qualifying payments”.  Forgiven balances are not subject to income tax. You qualify for PSLF if you meet the following requirements:

  • You are in a “Direct Loan” program
  • You are enrolled in an Income-Driven-Repayment (IDR) plan
  • Your payments are made on time and in full while working full time with a qualifying employer
    • A qualifying employer includes government agencies at any level (Federal, State, Local, Tribal), 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations, or serving as a full time volunteer for Americorps or the Peace Corps.

Note: The 120 payments are cumulative payments. They do not have to be made consecutively.

How do I know if my loans are direct loans?

  • Your loans will say so.  It will say “Direct….” If you took out loans after July 1, 2010, chances are they are direct loans.
  • If you took out loans prior to July 1, 2010, they may be what are known as FFEL loans. You may also have Perkins loans. To qualify for PSLF, you would need to consolidate non-direct loans into a new direct loan.

Caution: Get advice before consolidating. You will restart the PSLF repayment clock if you consolidate and may lose other benefits.

Is there one specific Income Driven Repayment plan I must enroll in?

  • There are four Income Driven Repayment plans: Revised Pay As You Earn Repayment (REPAYE), Pay As  Your Earn (PAYE), Income-Based Repayment Plan (IBR) and Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR).
  • Your specific loans will determine which IDR plans you qualify for. As long as you enroll in one of these plan(s), you will meet this requirement.

What if I was late or missed a payment? 

  • Your payment will be considered on time as long as you pay within 15 days of your due date.
  • If you missed a payment or paid it after the 15 day grace period, that payment will not count toward the 120 required for PSLF.

How do I make sure my payments count and I work for a qualifying employer? 

  • You must file the Employment Certification Form (ECF) to know if your payments count towards PSLF. Filing this form is also the best way to know if you are working for the right employer, have the correct type of loans, and the right repayment plan.
  • If you file the form and you have qualifying payments, note that your loans will be transferred to FedLoan Servicing.  FedLoan Servicing is the only servicer handling the PSLF program.

Tip: Submit the Employment Certification Form every year and when you change jobs to make sure your payments are being counted.

I filed the Employment Certification Form, what now?

  • It will be reviewed. Assuming you meet the initial program requirements, your loans will be transferred to FedLoan, if you have different servicer. FedLoan is the only servicer contracted to manage PSLF.
  • Once your ECF is reviewed, you will get a notice letting you know the number of payments that have counted and the number outstanding for PSLF eligibility.  Read the notice carefully to make sure your payments were properly counted.

When do I apply for PSLF?

  • You can submit an application when you have made the 120 qualifying payments.

Tip: If you get denied because you had the wrong repayment plan, look into the Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (TEPSLF). This program is time limited based on funding. It only helps people who were enrolled in the wrong repayment plan.

Is my Parent Plus loan eligible for PSLF?

  • No, but you can consolidate into a Direct Consolidation Loan to make it eligible.

Caution: Consolidation will restart your PSLF repayment clock. This means that if you have been paying your loans for five years, if you consolidate your Parent Plus loan, you will need to restart the 120 qualifying payments.

What’s next?

If you have not done so, file an Employment Certification Form. This is the best way to know if you meet the initial program requirements.

Call us if you have questions or are encountering hurdles qualifying for PSLF. You can also file a complaint with your loan servicer and the Department of Education. See our “File a Complaint” self-help topic.