March 1, 2021

How to Apply for Public Service Loan Forgiveness


If you are a student eyeing a public service career, you might want to consider the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program as a way to offset the costs of obtaining a college degree for your career. 

In short, this program offers forgiveness for public service employees who have student loans. However, there are a few requirements to meet before you can apply. And if you haven’t graduated yet or you’ve just started your career, you should definitely get on the path now to qualify for PSLF so you can max out your student loan forgiveness potential. 

How to apply for Public Service Loan Forgiveness:

Work Full-time for a Qualifying Employer

The PSLF program only offers forgiveness for individuals in public service. Where you work will determine whether you qualify for the program. Below are the types of eligible employers:

  • Federal, state, local, or tribal government organizations
  • 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations
  • Non-501(c)(3) nonprofits that provide primarily public services

And you have to be employed full-time (at least 30 hours per week) to be deemed eligible. However, volunteers in the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps can also qualify.

Enroll in an Income-Driven Repayment Plan

You must enroll in an income-driven repayment plan.

An income-driven repayment plan saves you the most amount of money, as these plans cap monthly payments at 10%, 15%, or 20% of your discretionary income. It’s generally best to enroll in the plan with the lowest monthly payment so you can max out your forgiveness potential when it’s time to apply for PSLF.

Read more about the four different income-driven repayment plans and which plan might be best for you on our blog, How To Qualify For Income-Based Repayment Plans. Note, you will need to recertify your income every year to stay enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan.

Complete 120 Qualifying Payments

Eligibility for PSLF requires 120 qualifying monthly payments. Qualifying means that your monthly payments are: 

  • For the full amount due
  • Paid on time or within 15 days of the due date
  • Made on or after Oct. 1, 2007
  • Made while working full-time for a qualifying employer and on an income-driven repayment plan

Signed & Submitted Employment Certification Form

The Employment Certification Form must be completed and submitted once a year or whenever you change public service jobs. Skipping this step will disqualify your payments even if you’ve completed them!

Make sure your employer certifies the document. Send it over to your supervisor to sign and then submit it to Fedloan.

PSLF Application

Your loans won’t automatically be forgiven once you’ve completed your 120th payment. You have to apply for forgiveness as soon as you’ve made your last monthly payment. You must complete, sign, and submit the PSLF application, and don’t forget, your employer must certify your employment on the PSLF application too.

Final Thoughts

Qualifying for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program requires long-term investment and commitment. However, once you complete your 120 qualifying payments, it is pretty straightforward from there to get your student debt forgiven. Make sure to follow these instructions and if you’re ever confused by which repayment plan is best for you, when to recertify your income, how to fill out the Employment Certification Form, we’re here for you! We’re experts and have years of experience helping other public service employees get their loans forgiven too!

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