January 25, 2022

Is Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Retroactive?


Normally, you could only get retroactive credit for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program if you worked in public service since October 1, 2007 and took out eligible student loans after 2007. This process involves hunting down former supervisors from your eligible jobs to sign off on an Employment Certification for Public Service Loan Forgiveness form.

However, the U.S. Department of Education announced on October 6, 2021 that they are changing PSLF rules. In light of the pandemic, the department is offering PSLF waivers. These waivers allow you to retroactively count certain loans toward your qualifying payments that usually do not qualify. Here is a closer look into this development.

Is PSLF Retroactive?

You may get retroactive credit for PSLF if you meet the program's requirements since the program’s launch on October 1, 2007. Generally, these qualifying requirements include:

  • Working Eligible Jobs: PSLF requires that you worked full time in a public service job after 2007. You will need to file a form certifying that you have worked in an eligible organization.
  • Making Qualifying Payments: You must make 120 qualifying payments on your student loan bills. These payments must be full and on time to qualify.
  • Paying Through Specific Plans: You must be making your federal student loan payments through an income-driven repayment plan.
  • Having Direct Loans: Federal Direct Loans include subsidized, unsubsidized, PLUS, and consolidation loans.

With the new waivers in effect, you can temporarily count non-Direct federal loans toward your qualifying payments. Such loans include:

In addition, any payments you have made on your Direct Loans may count toward the 120 qualifying payments you need. Regardless of loan type, repayment plan, or payments made, you are potentially closer to getting student loan forgiveness through these waivers.

In other words, partial payments, late payments, or those you made in a non-income-driven repayment plan will count towards your required 120, provided that you consolidate them into Direct Loans. Note that Parent PLUS loans remain ineligible despite this development.

How Do I Get Retroactive Credit?

You can take advantage of the temporary waiver by accomplishing the following tasks:

  • Consolidate your non-Direct loans into a single policy.
  • Prove that you have worked in an eligible job.
  • Apply for PSLF.

You must complete these actions by October 31, 2022. The U.S. set this date as the end of the national state of emergency for the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the national state of emergency may extend, there is no telling whether the Department of Education will extend this grace period. Once the waiver’s time has passed, the old PSLF rules will return.


So, is public service loan forgiveness retroactive? Yes, you can get retroactive credit for your payments on federal Direct Loans, as long as you have worked in a qualifying public service entity full-time after 2007. You must submit forms proving that you worked in those organizations, which involves getting supervisors (former or current) to sign.

Currently, you can get retroactive credit for other loans besides federal Direct Loans. Be sure to take advantage of this temporary change that the Department of Education granted while it lasts.

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