Step 1 – Have the right type of loans.
Only loans made under the Federal Direct Loan Program are eligible for PSLF. Private student loans aren’t eligible. Unfortunately, there’s no way to refinance or consolidate private student loans into federal student loans.
Other non-Direct Loans — Federal Family Education Loans and Perkins loans — are eligible for PSLF, but only if they’re consolidated into a Direct Consolidation Loan. You can apply for consolidation for free at studentaid.gov.
Learn More: How to Consolidate Student Loans for PSLF?
The Education Department recently announced that MOHELA will take over the processing of PSLF applications in 2022. All borrowers currently in the program will remain with FedLoan Servicing until they are transferred to MOHELA later this year.
Step 2 – Work full-time for a qualifying employer.
Your employer — not your job title — is what determines your eligibility for the program. Qualifying employers include:
city, local, state, and federal government agencies
school districts and charter schools
active-duty military service
non-profit organizations that provide a qualifying public service
AmeriCorps or the Peace Corps
religious organizations (but only for non-proselytizing work)
You can check if your employer qualifies by using the PSLF Help Tool or checking this PSLF employers list.
Note: Government contractors that work for a private company but at a government agency aren’t eligible for PSLF. The program’s rules require you to work directly for the government. Check out these other student loan forgiveness opportunities.
Step 3 – Choose the right repayment plan.
Unless you’re eligible for the temporary waiver, you must make your payments on a qualifying repayment plan, which includes the Standard 10-year plan or one of the income-driven repayment plans (IBR, ICR, PAYE, or REPAYE) to qualify for PSLF.
Most student loan borrowers will save the most money by making qualifying payments under an IDR plan. However, suppose you’re a higher earner, and the waiver pushes your payment count close to loan forgiveness.
In that case, your monthly payments may be cheaper under the Extended or Standard Repayment Plan.
Under the current PSLF rules, payments made while in the Graduated or Extended payment plans don’t count. However, payments made under those plans may still qualify under both the Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness and the PSLF Limited Waiver Opportunity.
Step 4 – Make 10 years’ worth of payments.
Loan forgiveness isn’t automatic because you’re a teacher, healthcare worker, law enforcement officer, or other type of public service worker. You have to make 120 student loan payments before you’re eligible for PSLF.
Under the current rules, PSLF payments must be made:
Payments made while you’re in deferment, forbearance, or in default don’t count. Under the PSLF Waiver, active duty service members can get credit for the period when their accounts were in deferment or forbearance.
Your payments don’t have to be made consecutively. For example, you could make some qualifying payments, miss a few months, and then pick up where you left off. You can also change employers — including leaving public service and resume progressing towards PSLF.
Lump-sum future payments are allowed. As of August 2020, if all other program requirements are met, prepayments will count for up to 12 months or the next time you’re due to recertify to complete your annual recertification, whichever is sooner.
Step 5 – Apply for PSLF.
You can apply for PSLF after you make your final qualifying payment. To apply, submit the employment certification form to FedLoan Servicing, which oversees PSLF for the Department of Education.
If your PSLF application is approved, the remaining balance of your loans (including principal and interest) will be forgiven.
Note: The Education Department recently announced that MOHELA will take over the processing of PSLF applications in 2022. All borrowers currently in the program will remain with FedLoan Servicing until they are transferred to MOHELA later this year.