The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program was established in 2007 to help borrowers pay off their student loan debt easier and faster. Under the federal program, eligible borrowers can have their loans discharged after 10 years if they meet eligibility requirements, which are as follows
Public Service Loan Forgiveness Requirements
• Must work full-time for the government or eligible non-for-profit within a designated field, such as firefighting, teaching, government, nursing, public interest law, military, or religious work;
• Make 10 years’ worth of payments, totaling 120 payments (although you are still eligible if you have to pause payments through forbearance), for the full amount within 15 days of your monthly payment due date.
• Have loans in the federal direct loan program; however, you can consolidate your federal loans for one payment under PSLF.
The Department of Education is taking steps over the coming months to help alleviate student loan debt for thousands of borrowers. They have outlined details in their October 6, 2021 Press Release announcing their Public Service Loan Forgiveness Fact Sheet.
Changes to Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program
- Loan waivers for direct payment. Provide a loan waiver to allow direct loan payments to count toward forgiveness that otherwise would not have counted toward PSLF (must apply by October 31, 2022). This waiver applies to those who have Direct Loans, those who have already consolidated under the Direct Loan program, and those who have other types of federal student loans who apply for consolidation under the Direct Loan Program during the allotted time. Borrowers can take action on this waiver by visiting: StudentAid.gov/PSLF.
- Simplify which payments qualify for PSLF. In the past, borrowers have been penalized for being short on their payment amount by a penny or two. Simple mistakes like this have cost borrowers forgiveness. The new changes will allow for more leniency.
- Military service counts toward PSLF. Allow months serving in military to count toward PSLF. Members of the military are able to put their student loans into forbearance or deferment while they’re on active duty, but those months do not count toward PSLF. Under the new rules, months spent on active duty will count toward PSLF regardless of their loan status.
- Automatic enrollment in PSLF program. Automatically make federal employees and members of the military part of the PSLF program. Next year, qualifying federal employees and military members will be automatically registered for PSLF.
- Review denied applications and correct errors. Many borrowers have complained of processing errors as well as discrepancies in the amounts they owe. The Department will review these complaints to ensure that borrowers are not being cheated out of qualifying.
- Improve communication with eligible borrowers. The Department will begin reaching out to borrowers who qualify for PSLF. Specifically, individuals will be emailed who have made 120 payments but need to verify their employer as well as those who made previous payments that did not qualify but now do under the new rules.
- Simplify the application process. Make it easier for borrowers to apply for public service loan forgiveness.
- Continued improvement. Continue to make long-term improvements to the program. The Department of Education will continue to make improvements to the program through the rule-making process.
How to Get Started Qualifying for Public Service Loan Forgiveness
Contact the Department of Education
It’s recommended that borrowers register for an FSA ID at StudentAid.gov/create-account or update your contact information at StudentAid.gov/settings. You can also find more details on the changes in the coming months here: StudentAid.gov/PSLFWaiver.
Employer Certification Form
The US Department of Education has an employment certification form and instructions. Use of the employment certification form is recommended but not required. It is best, however, to submit the form annually or whenever the borrower changes employers to ensure that the qualifying service is properly recorded.
Upon submission, the US Department of Education’s servicer will inform the borrower whether the employment reported on the form satisfies the requirements for public service loan forgiveness. Borrowers will also be able to track their progress toward obtaining public service loan forgiveness.
After the borrower has fulfilled the requirements for public service loan forgiveness (i.e., made 120 qualifying payments while working full-time in a qualifying public service job), the borrower will need to file a PSLF application to obtain the loan forgiveness. A link to this form will be added to this web site when it becomes available.
Obtaining a Federal Direct Consolidation Loan
To obtain a federal direct consolidation loan, contact the US Department of Education.
If you have not yet consolidated, you can seek a federal direct consolidation loan in order to obtain an income contingent repayment plan. Federal direct consolidation loans are available if you haven’t been able to obtain a FFEL consolidation loan, income sensitive repayment terms acceptable to you or if you have defaulted on your FFEL loans.
You can request income-contingent repayment or income-based repayment. The consolidation loan application does not currently include a checkbox for requesting these repayment plans, so you must ask for it separately.