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What We Do Accessing Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Accessing Public Service Loan Forgiveness

The Department of Education recently announced an overhaul of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. After years of breakdowns and mismanagement, millions of public service workers who have been struggling under the weight of student loan debt now have a path to relief. In short, borrowers who were previously ineligible because they had the wrong loan, were making payments on the wrong payment plan, or were knocked off track due to processing errors can now receive credit toward forgiveness for those years worked in public service.

While this is a huge victory for borrowers — made possible by the tireless efforts of an amazing network of advocacy organizations and individual borrowers across the country — a lot of questions remain about how the process will work. Below, borrowers can find information and resources. As announcements are made, we will continue to update this page to ensure all borrowers have timely, accurate information.

Getting Started: What All Borrowers Need to Do:

  1. Where do you work? Determine whether your employment qualifies.
  2. What kind of loan do you have? Find out if you have the right type of loan or if you need to consolidate your loan(s) to qualify.
  3. Take action before October 31, 2022! Borrowers must apply before the deadline to access this relief.

(Use our guide below to determine the answers to 1 & 2)

Remember: Even if you were previously ineligible, you now may qualify for credit toward PSLF for public service work done since 2007.

Guide to Navigating PSLF

The videos below can provide you with updates on changes to the PSLF program and instructions for applying for PSLF.

Overview of PSLF and Program Changes

Confirming Your Employer Qualifies for PSLF

Identifying Your Student Loans for PSLF

Consolidating Your Loans for PSLF

Certifying Your Employment for PSLF

Frequently Asked Questions on PSLF

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Below are answers to some frequently asked questions that might help provide you additional information on your PSLF eligibility. We will update this page with relevant information as more details become public and it’s clear what the next steps are for individual borrowers.

Q: Who can qualify for PSLF?

A: Student loan borrowers pursuing PSLF must be employed by a qualifying public service employer to take advantage of the program. These employers are generally: 

  • Government employers 
  • 501(c)3 organizations  
  • Other non-profit organizations
  • Private, for-profit employers currently do not qualify for PSLF.

The Department of Education (ED) generally requires public service workers to file an Employment Certification Form (ECF) to document their employment with a qualified employer. During the current waiver period, ED will engage in data matching with other federal agencies to verify employment for federal government employees and members of the U.S. federal military, but all other borrowers seeking PSLF will need to file an ECF if they have not already done so.

Q: How do I know if I’m eligible for PSLF?

A: During the current waiver period, the Department of Education is allowing borrowers to receive credit toward loan forgiveness for any months since October 1, 2007, during which:

  • They worked full-time for a qualifying public service employer, AND
  • They were in repayment on any federal student loan they took out for their own education.*

You do not have to be currently employed or working full-time to receive loan forgiveness. If you have accrued 120 months of public service employment while your loans were in repayment since October 1, 2007, you can qualify to have your debt cancelled, regardless of what repayment plan you were in, and regardless of whether you actually made a payment for a given month, as long as your loan was not in a deferment, forbearance, or default.

* Parent Plus loans and Spousal FFEL Consolidation loans are not included in the waiver.

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Q: How long is the new waiver effective?

A: This new policy is only in effect through October 31, 2022. After this date, borrowers will only be able to receive credit toward debt cancellation under PSLF if they meet the traditional eligibility requirements: on-time payments based on an income-driven repayment plan, made on a Direct Loan only, while working for a qualifying public service employer. However, any credit borrowers received as a result of the waiver will remain on their account.

For example, if during the waiver a borrower who had 30 credits receives 80 additional credits toward the required 120 for months that were previously ineligible, but that only brings her to 110, after October 31, 2022, she will still only need 10 more credits. However, she will have to accrue those future credits under the regular PSLF program requirements.

Q: What do I need to do to benefit from the PSLF waiver period?

A: Many borrowers will get credit automatically between now and the October 31, 2022, deadline. The Department will automatically review their files and award credit for PSLF. The Department will contact these borrowers on a rolling basis with information about the credit they can expect.

However, borrowers that have an older federal loan made by a bank or private lender will need to “consolidate” their loan—essentially refinance with the federal government— and file an Employment Certification Form (ECF) with the federal government to document their time in the public service.  

Normally, consolidating would restart a borrower’s count of payments toward PSLF. Under the waiver, consolidating will not restart a borrower’s count of payments toward PSLF.

If they have not certified that they have performed a decade of service, borrowers will need to take action. These borrowers must file an ECF with the federal government to document their credit in the public service. 

Below is more guidance on what borrowers should do based on various loan types and employment certification status.

If you currently have a Direct Loan and have previously submitted an Employment Certification Form (ECF):

  • The Department of Education will automatically review your employment and loan history to determine what PSLF credit you have earned.

    Through October 31, 2022, you will receive credit toward forgiveness for any month during which you had federal loans and qualifying, full-time employment, so long as those loans were in repayment status, regardless of whether you actually made a payment. This should include any months except for those during which you were in a deferment, forbearance, or default. 

If you have a Direct Loan but have never certified your public service employment:

  • Public service workers who currently have Direct Loans but who have not filed an Employment Certification Form (ECF) since having Direct Loans, will need to file an ECF before October 31, 2022.
  • Even if you have a combination of Direct Loans and older federal loans that you will need to consolidate, file one ECF that reflects all of your public service employment since October 1, 2007. This will give the Department the information it needs to grant you credit for that entire period and for all of your loans, as long as you take the steps to consolidate any non-Direct Loans.

If you have a Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) or Perkins Loan:

  • If you have any non-Direct Loans (i.e. FFEL or Perkins Loans), you will need to consolidate these loans by October 31, 2022 in order to get PSLF credit for those loans prior to consolidation. Consolidation is the process of refinancing your federal loans with the federal government, which results in a new federal Direct Loan.
  • In addition to consolidating your loan, if you have not submitted an Employment Certification Form (ECF), you will need to do that after your consolidation is complete.

Q: How does the new waiver affect servicemembers and veterans?

A: The new PSLF waiver removes some barriers for military servicemembers to receive PSLF. The Department of Education will allow months spent on active duty to count toward PSLF, even if the servicemember’s loans were on a deferment or forbearance instead of in active repayment. 

The Department of Education’s changes to PSLF will also help servicemembers and other federal employees automatically access PSLF. In 2022, the Department of Education will begin automatically giving servicemembers and federal employees credit for PSLF by matching Department of Education data with information held by other federal agencies about servicemembers and the federal workforce.

Q: What happens if my new credits from the waiver push my payment count above the 120 payment requirement?

A: If, as a result of this process and receiving credit for past years, you exceed the 120 months required for PSLF loan forgiveness, your loans will be forgiven and you will be credited back for any monthly payments you made above the 120 that are required. If you have not yet met the 120 requirement, you can continue to make payments towards your requirement after October 31, 2022, adding to those that you received during this special waiver process.

Q: I have not made payments during the CARES Act payment pause. How does that affect my PSLF payment count?

A: As part of the CARES Act, the federal government has paused payments for most federal student loan borrowers since March 2020. These months will count toward PSLF forgiveness for Direct Loans. For other loans, pursuant to the waiver, those months will count if the loans were in a repayment status, rather than a deferment, forbearance, or default.

For a step-by-step guide to some of these changes, you can watch our PSLF webinar here.


Trouble Getting on Track for PSLF? We Want to Hear From You.

For borrowers having problems navigating PSLF, please fill out the form below. We want to hear about your situation and roadblocks you have faced in order to help identify and address recurring problems.

Click here to access our complaint form

State-Based Resources for Borrowers

Below is a list of state-based resources as well where borrowers can submit complaints.

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