If you’re a teacher working at a U.S. public school, you could qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), a program that forgives student loan debt as long as you fall within its requirements. Determining whether you qualify, however, can be pretty challenging. After doing extensive research into PSLF for my own situation, I want to share with you useful information that can help you get started as well.
First, the basics: After making 120 qualifying monthly student loan payments (or 10 years of payments), you may qualify to be forgiven the remaining balance on your Direct Loans through PSLF. Direct Loans are defined as only certain types of federal loans. For a payment to qualify, it must have been made after October 1, 2007, and – if you have loans that need to be consolidated – only payments on consolidated loans will apply. (If your loans aren’t yet consolidated, you may still be eligible to get credit for previous payments as long as you consolidate them by October 31, 2022.) Make sure to log in to Federal Student Aid and check the details of your loans.
Typically, in order to qualify for PSLF, you need to be on an income-driven repayment plan (IDR) but, through Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness (TEPSLF), you may qualify if you’ve met all other PSLF requirements except for the eligible payment plan. However, TEPSLF funding is limited and, once that funding source has been maxed out, this will no longer be an option.
In summary, in order to qualify for PSLF/TEPSLF you must:
- Work for a qualifying employer (essentially government agencies and not-for-profit organizations).
- Work full-time (30 hours or more per week and can be the result of a combination of qualifying employers).
- Have Direct Loans (or consolidated).
- Be on an IDR (or qualify for TEPSLF).
- Make 120 qualifying payments.
See the Federal Student Aid website for full details and to check the requirements for your specific situation.
The next step is to make sure you submit the employment verification form annually or whenever you change jobs. Sometimes this form is referred to as the PSLF application or certification. It’s all the same form that can be faxed, mailed or uploaded to FedLoan Servicing.
Check FedLoan Servicing to see the history of your payments and ensure they are accurate. If your payments prior to consolidation are not appearing, reach out to your prior lenders to obtain a payment history. This is what FedLoan Servicing will do as well, but action on your part can help expedite the process. You can also submit a Freedom of Information Act request form to get a record of student loan payments.
Because everyone’s situation is unique, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program Support Facebook Group is a great place to check for resources, advice, support and to hear about the experiences of others. In fact, a member of that very group created a flowchart that can guide you through your particular situation (credit: Matt Amory). The PSLF Help Tool is also a good starting point to determine your next steps.
If you have questions specific to your situation, you can reach out to 855-265-4038 (be prepared to wait hours) or send a message through the FedLoan Servicing Facebook page (more responsive and will contact you, so you don’t have to wait on hold).
There’s a lot of information to take in up front when investigating whether PSLF might apply to you. It can be overwhelming. Start at the very beginning, ask questions and make sure you’re clear on every step. If you have a sizable amount remaining on your student loans, it could be time well spent.
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