4 Beginner Tips for Public Service Loan Forgiveness Success
Are you unsure about applying for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)? Over $34 billion of federal student loan debt has been forgiven under PSLF and Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness (as of March 2023). Join the PSLF success stories with these four tips.
Understand the requirements.
There are several requirements you must meet to move toward your goal of receiving forgiveness. Before you plan on receiving PSLF, check all the requirements carefully to make sure you’re eligible under each category (loan type, employer, repayment plan, and qualifying payments).
Loan Type Requirements
Only nondefaulted federal Direct Loans are eligible for PSLF. Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans and Federal Perkins Loans don’t qualify for PSLF unless they’re consolidated into a Direct Loan. Log in to view your loan type(s) in your Dashboard.
This requirement is about your employer, not your job title. You must work at least 30 hours a week for a qualifying employer to be eligible for PSLF.
You can use the employer search tool to see if your employer qualifies. Just make sure you have your employer’s correct Employer Identification Number (EIN). You can find your employer’s EIN on box b of your Wage and Tax Statement (W-2). Usually, your employer will send you your W-2 form for the tax year at the beginning of tax season.
If you’re a new employee and don’t have a federal tax form with an EIN yet, you can ask your human resources office for the correct EIN used by your organization for payroll.
Requirements for Qualifying Payments
To get PSLF, you have to get a total count of 120 qualifying payments. So you’ll want to make sure that you’re getting closer to your goal with each payment you make.
Keep in mind, your payments don’t have to be consecutive. If there’s a period when you’re working for a nonqualifying employer or you leave work to go back to school, you won’t lose credit for the qualifying payments you made in the past.
As long as you meet the qualifying payment criteria, prepayments will count for up to 12 months or the next time you’re due to recertify your IDR plan, whichever is sooner. Plan your prepayments carefully!
For example, say you recertified your IDR plan, and your monthly payment was $100, but you paid $1200 the first month. That payment would count as 12 separate eligible payments for that year. You would not be able to make another eligible payment until the next 12-month cycle.
Past periods of repayment, deferment, and forbearance might now count toward your PSLF qualifying payment count because of the one-time account adjustment.
Just keep in mind, these additional qualifying payments won’t show up on your account until the adjustment officially occurs later in 2024.
Borrowers with certain non-Direct loans may need to take action before the end of 2023 to benefit from this adjustment.
Confirm PSLF works for your situation.
PSLF only works if you have a remaining loan balance after 120 qualifying payments. That’s why you generally shouldn’t stay on the Standard Plan the entire time you’re in repayment—there would be nothing to forgive at the end! To benefit from PSLF, you must repay your federal student loans on an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan.
But even on an IDR plan, it’s possible to pay off your debt before you make 120 qualifying payments. Your remaining balance after you make 120 qualifying payments and apply for PSLF is the amount you’ll have forgiven. Ultimately, the amount forgiven depends on your income, family size, and loan balance.
While you’re enrolled in one of our IDR plans, the amount you pay each month is determined by your income. If your income increases over the course of your public service career, your monthly payment may also increase. This increase means you’ll pay off your loan faster. In some plans, your monthly payment can exceed the amount you would pay in the Standard Plan, which can lead you to pay off your loan in under 10 years. That’s a great outcome, but it means that you wouldn’t benefit from PSLF!
To ensure the program is the right fit for you, we recommend you use Loan Simulator to get your personalized PSLF projection.
Submit your PSLF form.
The best way to check if you’re on track for PSLF is by submitting a PSLF form.
The information you provide on the PSLF form will confirm if your
- employer qualifies for the program,
- repayment plan is eligible for PSLF, and
- previous loan payments count toward PSLF.
If you’re not fulfilling a qualification for PSLF, further details will be provided in a response letter.
Submit a PSLF form each year and when you change jobs. Information on the PSLF form needs to be consistent with previous PSLF forms you’ve submitted, including employment start dates.
To fill out a PSLF form, you’ll need your employer’s address and EIN.
PSLF Help Tool
You can use the PSLF Help Tool to complete, sign, and submit your PSLF form. This online tool will help you answer questions on the form and provide info about whether your employer is eligible for PSLF.
To get a digital signature from your employer, you will need the correct email address for an “authorizing official.” An authorizing official is someone who has access to your employment or service records and is approved by your employer to certify your employment. This is usually someone in your human resources department, though in some cases your direct supervisor or another person may be authorized to certify your employment.
Check with your organization to see who is allowed to certify your PSLF form. Tell the authorizing official to expect an email from the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid via DocuSign on your behalf.
Save and archive your documentation.
In case you face any discrepancies in your payment count during the PSLF process, you’ll want to save all of your paperwork and communication related to your PSLF journey. Keep copies of your
- PSLF forms,
- response letters from your servicer, and
- employment documentation.
Store your copies in a safe place. This way, you can provide these copies as documentation, if needed.
If you have more questions, we recommend you review the PSLF Questions and Answers page. If your questions aren’t covered on that page, you can contact MOHELA at 1-855-265-4038.