Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)
Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) is a program for people who work in public service in federal, state, Tribal, or local government, or for a non-profit organization. PSLF forgives the remaining balance on your Direct Loans after you have made 120 qualifying payments while working full-time for a qualifying employer. Only payments made under certain repayment plans (primarily income-driven repayment plans) qualify for PSLF.
For a limited time, an additional program called Temporary Expansion of Public Service Loan Forgiveness (TEPSLF) is available. If some or all of your payments weren’t made on a qualifying repayment plan for PSLF, you may be able to receive loan forgiveness under a temporary opportunity. This opportunity is temporary, has limited funding, and must be provided on a first come, first served basis. Once all of the funds are used, the TEPSLF opportunity will end.
If you want to take advantage of PSLF or TEPSLF, use the Office of Federal Student Aid’s PSLF Help Tool to confirm you’re eligible and fill out and submit the required forms to sign up. Get started here!
You can use the Department of Education’s PSLF Help Tool to determine whether you work for a qualifying employer for the PSLF program. It suggests actions you can take to become eligible for PSLF and guides you through the PSLF form and submission process. It’s strongly recommended that you read Become a Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Help Tool Ninja before getting started.
- We also suggest that you take a look at the Student Borrower Protection Center’s guide to navigating PSLF. This page includes helpful short videos walking you through each step, including a program overview, how to identify your student loans for PSLF, consolidating your loans, and certifying your employment.
The Department of Education says that most people complete their PSLF Help Tool process in less than 30 minutes (the process must be completed in a single session); you will also need to have your PSLF form(s) signed by your employer(s). Once you have submitted your PSLF form (and consolidation application if needed), it could take several months for the Department to process your applications and update your status.
The entire process to get to forgiveness depends on your own journey but will be at least ten years (120 qualifying payments).
PSLF forgives the remaining balance on your Direct Loans after you have made 120 qualifying payments while working full-time for a qualifying employer. Only payments made under certain repayment plans (primarily income-driven repayment plans) qualify for PSLF.
TEPSLF forgives the remaining balance on your Direct Loans, but is available if you do not qualify for PSLF only because some or all of your payments were made under a repayment plan that did not qualify for PSLF and you meet other requirements. TEPSLF is a temporary program and will end once a certain amount of loan forgiveness has been granted.
You can use the PSLF Help Tool to determine whether you work for a qualifying employer. If your employer doesn’t show up, don’t worry. The Department of Education will review your submission and use your submission to add your employer to their database when their review is complete. They recommend two things when doing your manual entry:
- Enter your employer name exactly as it appears on your W-2.
- Upload a copy of your W-2 when prompted to upload documentation.
You may be unsure if your employment qualifies because you are an independent contractor or you are employed by a government contractor. If a qualifying employer has sent you a W-2 at the end of each tax year, you are employed by the qualifying employer for the purposes of PSLF. For example, if you were hired by a for-profit government contractor and the contractor issues your W-2, you are employed by that contractor. In this case, although you may be doing work for a qualifying employer (a government agency), you are not an employee of the qualifying employer. The specific job that you perform doesn’t matter, as long as you’re employed by a qualifying employer.
Please note, you must be working full-time for a qualifying employer to receive credit toward PSLF. For PSLF, 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. If you are employed in more than one qualifying part-time job at the same time, you may meet the full-time employment requirement if you work a combined average of at least 30 hours per week with your employers.
It is a good idea to certify your employment annually using the PSLF form. If not annually, you should minimally consider certifying your employment whenever you are changing jobs. That said, you can certify employment for your qualifying payments at any point.
No. You must make 120 separate monthly payments. Paying extra won’t make you eligible to receive PSLF sooner.
You may prepay, or make lump-sum payments, which first apply to any months during which you missed a payment and then would apply to future months up to your next income-driven payment (IDR) plan certification date or 12 months.
For example, if you recertified your IDR and your monthly payment was $100, but you paid $1200 for the first month’s payment, that payment would count as 12 separate monthly payments for that year. You would not need to make another payment until the next 12-month cycle when you have to re-certify your income for IDR. These payments would count as qualifying payments toward PSLF forgiveness once you certified your employment with a qualifying employer for the same 12-month period (which you can’t do in advance).
There is no income limit for the PSLF program.
Yes! Under a recent change by the U.S. Department of Education, Parent PLUS loan borrowers will now be included in the IDR Account Adjustment. IDR credits will count as eligible payments for PSLF. This means, Parent PLUS borrowers can now earn credit towards PSLF for months in which you have worked for a qualifying employer! If you believe you might benefit, there may be steps you need to take in order to take advantage of this benefit, particularly updating your employment certification history to reflect all periods of public service employment. Visit this link from the Student Borrower Protection Center to understand all of the steps you need to take.
Here are some free resources:
- Department of Education’s PSLF Help Tool
- San Francisco’s Smart Money Coaching (free one-on-one financial coaching): https://sfgov.org/ofe/meet-financial-coach
- Bay Area Legal Aid’s Free Legal Advice Line: 800-551-5554 (best for more complicated individual loan questions, not basic PSLF program guidance)
- Additional resources, including short videos, to guide you through the PSLF process from the Student Borrower Protection Center: https://protectborrowers.org/our-projects/pslf/