There are lots of burning questions surrounding the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (PSLF). Many turn to Reddit for answers. Since I’m a student loan lawyer, I thought it would help you out to answer the most popular questions on the PSLF Reddit.
What is the PSLF Reddit? PSLF Reddit is a subreddit devoted to information and support for Americans enrolled or trying to enroll in PSLF, which stands for Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
People post these questions on Reddit because they don't know who else to ask, and PSLF Reddit is a generally supportive and helpful community.
However, commenters — even the most upvoted ones — may not have any expertise on the topics discussed.
I am a student loan attorney with years of experience negotiating student loan settlements, navigating borrowers through loan forgiveness, and helping people better understand their student loan debt situation.
Below, I answer some of the most popular questions asked in the PSLF subreddit from an expert’s point of view. If you need to talk about your individual situation, schedule a free 10-minute call with me to see how I can help.
Disclaimer: I am a student loan lawyer, but this post contains general information and should not be taken as legal advice.
How does the PSLF program work?
The PSLF program works by offering loan forgiveness to public servants on income-driven repayment plans (IDRs). After 10 years of qualifying on-time payments, public service workers can apply for total student loan forgiveness.
This loan forgiveness only applies to federal student loans, not private loans.
FFEL and Perkins loans need to be consolidated into a Direct Consolidation Loan to be eligible for PSLF. (But don’t consolidate a Parent PLUS loan, or the whole Consolidation Loan is ineligible.)
Very few applicants are approved, but the federal government has tried to rectify the high rejection rate by introducing TEPSLF and the Limited Opportunity Waiver, the latter of which is available for only one year.
What is the difference between PSLF and TEPSLF? You’re eligible for TEPSLF if you meet the requirements for PSLF but made payments under the wrong payment plan.
Paying under the wrong plan is a common error, and the government puts a lot of the blame on student loan servicers for misleading borrowers. Congress created TEPSLF and, later, the Limited Waiver Opportunity to help borrowers who believed they were abiding by the PSLF rules but really weren’t.
Recently, Congress created the PSLF Limited Waiver Opportunity. Between October 2021 and October 2022, borrowers have access to a limited-time waiver that may give credit for past loan payments that would otherwise not qualify for PSLF.
Check out my Guide to the PSLF Limited Waiver Opportunity.
How do I know if I qualify for PSLF?
You only truly know if you qualify for PSLF if you fill out a PSLF application via studentaid.gov and get a response. The government tends to respond to your application within 2-10 weeks.
“Do I qualify for PSLF?” is a very common PSLF Reddit question. Generally, PSLF eligibility requirements include:
- Qualifying full-time employment (30 hours/week, or what your employer considers “full-time,” whichever is more), OR
- Qualifying part-time employment (30 hours/week or more at multiple qualifying employers in part-time roles)
- Qualifying repayment plan
- 120 qualifying (on-time) payments
- Qualifying type of loan (all Direct Program Loans)
- Your employer is a federal, state, local, or tribal government organization; or,
- Your employer is a 501(c)3 nonprofit; or,
- Your employer is a not-for-profit that’s not 501(c)3 designated but meets other requirements related to public service; or,
- You are employed by AmeriCorps, in a full-time capacity, or the Peace Corps.
U/veggiesandsnatches makes a good point — you cannot be approved for PSLF until you have made 120 payments (10 years). You can, however, periodically submit the PSLF form so that you can track your eligibility while you reach for that 120-payment count.
Do I still qualify if I work multiple part-time jobs?
If you work multiple part-time jobs, you should qualify for PSLF if you work a minimum of 30 hours/week for qualifying employers. For example, you can work for one non-profit for 10 hours every week and another non-profit for 20 hours every week at the same time.
That 30 hours/week threshold is an annual average. Take all the hours you worked in a year and divide it by 52. If the result is 30 or more, you should be good.
Can my qualified employer reject my full-time status?
In rare cases, yes, your qualified employer may reject that you are full-time if you don’t work 40 hours a week. Your Public Service Loan Forgiveness employment certification form may rely on your employer’s definition of full-time.
The Department of Education says that “you are generally considered to work full-time if you meet your employer’s definition of full-time or work at least 30 hours per week, whichever is greater.”
Unfortunately, there is a possibility that your employer won’t consider 30 hours/week to be full-time. In rare cases, qualifying employers may not officially confirm that you worked for them “full-time.” They are allowed to consider up to 40 hours/week as a threshold for full-time employment.
Most of the time this happens, HR departments may be mistakenly worried about classifying 30-hour/week employees as full-time, possibly due to benefits or other tax purposes.
As u/JollyCommunication25 discussed, this full-time requirement complicates maternity leave or reducing hours during late-stage pregnancy.
You can take 3 months off work through the Family Medical Leave Act. Those 3 months count towards PSLF, hours-wise. However, you still have to make on-time income-driven payments during those 3 months.
Working at two different employers means you only have to work a total of 30 hours/week — no matter the employers’ definitions of full-time.
How does the new PSLF waiver impact my application?
The new PSLF waiver positively impacts most people’s PSLF applications. Since many people don’t qualify for PSLF for minor reasons (like being on the wrong repayment plan), the PSLF Limited Opportunity Waiver can help more borrowers qualify for loan forgiveness.
A lot of people have urgent questions about the new PSLF waiver. After all, student loan borrowers only have till next year (October 2022) to take advantage of this opportunity.
Check out my in-depth, step-by-step guide to filling out the PSLF waiver.
Be encouraged by u/ComfortableNovel7562’s experience. This user had 89 qualifying payments. The waiver made 32 past payments that were not qualifying into qualifying payments, pushing him suddenly over that 120 payment threshold.
Is Public Service Loan Forgiveness right for me?
PSLF is right for you if you work at least 30 hours a week for a qualifying non-profit organization, and you pay off your Direct Loan under an income-driven repayment plan.
Parent Plus loans or Direct Consolidation loans that consolidated a PLUS loan are not eligible for PSLF.
If you make a lot of money, you may not benefit from an income-driven repayment plan (such as IBR or PAYE). If you can reasonably pay off your student loans in 10 years or less, you probably shouldn’t waste your time looking into PSLF.
How long will it take for my PSLF application to be processed?
It often takes 2 weeks for your PSLF application to be processed. In the past, it has taken a lot longer, but the government seems to be stepping up its game.
According to this thread on Reddit, FedLoan Servicing estimates their PSLF application process should take 20 days. A commenter who had successfully earned forgiveness said it took almost two months to process the application and get loan forgiveness.
Is PAYE or REPAYE better for PSLF applicants?
PAYE or REPAYE? A PAYE plan is better for PSLF applicants because of how you certify your income for PAYE plans — and because REPAYE plans don’t have a max monthly payment cap.
Married borrowers definitely benefit from a PAYE plan because you can file your taxes as “married but filing separately” and not count your spouse’s income towards your income-driven repayment plan.
Do payments during my grace period count toward PSLF?
No, payments made during your 6-month grace period do not count towards PSLF. According to the U.S. Department of Education, you cannot make qualifying payments until after your grace period has ended.
However, to immediately make qualifying payments when you leave school, you can consolidate your loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan during your grace period. Then, you can enter qualified loan repayment right away.
Don’t confuse the 6-month grace period after graduating or leaving school with the automatic forbearance due to the COVID pandemic. Non-payments during COVID forbearance will count towards PSLF, but paying or not paying during a grace period will not count.
Do payments made during the COVID forbearance count toward PSLF?
Yes, payments made during the automatic COVID forbearance count towards PSLF. However, not paying during COVID forbearance also counts towards PSLF.
President Trump extended the COVID payment pause through January 21, 2021. President Biden then extended the pause through January 31, 2022.
Eligible Payments vs. Ineligible Payments
Only certain payments actually qualify for PSLF. A qualifying monthly payment is a payment that you make:
- after Oct. 1, 2007
- after the 6-month grace period once you graduate from or leave school
- under a qualifying repayment plan
- for the total amount due
- within 15 days of your due date
- while you are employed at least 30 hours a week by an eligible employer or employers
- towards a Direct Loan (other than a PLUS loan or a Consolidation Loan that includes a PLUS loan)
It can be discouraging to learn that 0 of your past payments have counted towards PSLF. Here are some common reasons that payments are ineligible for PSLF:
- The loan is an FFEL (Federal Family Education Loan) instead of a Direct Loan.
- You made payments under a non-qualifying repayment plan. (The Limited Opportunity Waiver may fix this problem for you.)
- You paid late one month or failed to pay the full amount.
- Payments were made on loans that have since been consolidated.
- Any payment made during a grace period after you leave or graduate from school is ineligible for PSLF.
- While in school, you cannot make qualifying payments.
- During some deferment or forbearance periods, you cannot make qualifying payments. However, both paying and not paying during the COVID forbearance does qualify towards PSLF.
Do payments made while in default count towards PSLF? No, payments made while in default will not count towards PSLF.
Do payments I made before consolidation still count toward PSLF? No, payments you made on a Direct Loan before consolidation do not count towards PSLF. You will lose that credit. You will need to start over on your 120 qualifying payments with the new Direct Consolidation Loan.
In-school deferment and PSLF
You cannot make PSLF-qualifying payments on federal student aid while in school — at least you can’t make qualified payments on loans that are paying for your current stretch of school.
If you're trying to qualify for PSLF but re-enroll in school (at least half-time), you can decline an in-school deferment then make qualifying payments on those loans while enrolled.
If you went back to school during the COVID forbearance period, your payments might not automatically count towards PSLF because school deferment trumps COVID forbearance.
However, according to this Reddit post, you may be able to call and ask to have your in-school deferment removed retroactively. That way, all the months between March 2020 and January 2022 can count towards PSLF.
Should I consolidate my loans before I apply for PSLF?
Yes, if you ever intend on consolidating your student loans, you need to consolidate them early to take advantage of PSLF. Once you consolidate your loans, PSLF “restarts,” and you have to make 120 qualifying payments on that Direct Consolidation Loan.
The Department of Education’s Limited Opportunity Waiver changes this a bit. The waiver allows you to temporarily count payments on a loan that has since been consolidated towards your 120 threshold.
Important: Refinancing is different from consolidation. If you refinance, your student loans are wrapped into one private loan. Private loans are not eligible for student loan forgiveness.
What is a “trophy”?
A trophy is when you log into your federal student loan account and officially have 10 years of payments, at which point it will say, "You're eligible to apply for forgiveness!" A trophy is the goal of any PSLF applicant.
Check out this image shared by u/misfit777 on what a trophy looks like.
Need help navigating PSLF? I can help.
I am a student loan lawyer with years of experience navigating student loan cancellation, forgiveness, and even settlements. Schedule a free call with me, or sign up for my newsletter for expert tips and tricks.