By Eric Rosenberg, WCI Contributor
Congress passed the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program as part of the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007. The program forgives the remaining balance of federal student loan debt for public service workers after they’ve made 120 qualifying monthly payments (while also filling out the PSLF Employment Certification Form). Federal Student Aid began accepting and reviewing applications from borrowers in October 2017.
Because the minimum number of monthly payments is 120, applicants must have worked in public service for at least 10 years to be eligible. Through February 2023, approximately 453,000 borrowers have qualified for forgiveness.
Here's what you need to know about the PSLF Employment Certification Form and what to do with it.
What Is the PSLF Employment Certification Form?
The PSLF Employment Certification Form is used to determine eligibility for debt forgiveness. It’s a quick, six-page form that will help you know whether your employer qualifies for the program, and it can assist the government in tracking and verifying your progress toward the payment threshold.
If you need further help assessing your eligibility for PSLF, Federal Student Aid in 2018 launched a PSLF Help Tool, which can guide you through submitting your form. Since 2018, additional conditions have allowed borrowers to become eligible if some or all of their payments made on Direct Loans were under nonqualifying repayment plans. It’s called the Temporary Expanded PSLF (TEPSLF), and it's certified using the same form.
If your employer qualifies for PSLF and you’ve met the payment requirements, your balance remainder on federal student loans may be forgiven tax-free in some situations.
Which Jobs Qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness?
The following employers qualify for PSLF. Note that your job duties are irrelevant to PSLF certification, and if your employer doesn’t qualify, you won’t be eligible.
- A government organization (a federal, state, local, or tribal government organization, agency, or entity; a public child or family service agency; a tribal college or university; or the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps. Federal service includes military service.)
- Tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the internal revenue code (IRC)
- A not-for-profit organization that is not tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the IRC
If you work for one of these, you may qualify for PSLF. Remember: there are strict timeline, paperwork, and job duty requirements.
There is also the potential of qualifying for PSLF in Texas and California if you simply contract with or work for a for-profit business that contracts with a nonprofit.
More information here:
How Do You Check If Your Employer Qualifies For PSLF?
- Emergency management
- Military service
- Public safety
- Law enforcement
- Public interest legal services
- Early childhood education
- Public service for individuals with disabilities
- Public service for the elderly
- Public health
- Public education
- Public library services
- School library services
- Other school-based services
If your employer does not fit within one of the above categories, you should not submit a PSLF Employment Certification Form. Additionally, if you work for a partisan political organization or a labor union, you won’t qualify.
How to Fill Out the PSLF Employment Certification Form
The PSLF Employment Certification Form can easily be found online, and it guides you through the steps to submitting it for review. You can send your completed forms to the US Department of Education’s contractor, the Higher Education Loan Authority of the State of Missouri (MOHELA). The form includes their exact address.
You may also fax your paperwork to MOHELA at 866-222-7060—that is, if you still want to use a fax machine like it’s 1997.
An authorized official of your employer must fill out part of the form. This is usually someone in Human Resources, but it could be your manager. Make sure they sign and date their portion of the form.
If you work for a nonprofit or related company, find your employer’s IRC tax status before filling out anything, and have your Social Security number on hand. Check whether your loans, payments, and repayment plan are eligible for the program. Only loans made under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program that are not in default are eligible.
The government defines on-time payments as any payment made on a student loan greater than or equal to the monthly balance, submitted no more than 15 days after the due date. The following repayment plans are eligible for PSLF:
- Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) plan
- Pay As You Earn (PAYE) plan
- Income-Based Repayment (IBR) plan
- Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR) plan
- Standard Repayment plan with a maximum 10-year repayment period
- Any other Direct Loan repayment plan if payments are at least equal to the monthly payment amount that would be required under the Standard Repayment plan with a 10-year repayment period
TEPSLF makes the following repayments plans eligible, too:
- Graduated Repayment Plan
- Extended Repayment Plan
- Standard Repayment Plan for Direct Consolidation Loans
- Graduated Repayment Plan for Direct Consolidation Loans
More information here:
How Do I Retroactively Submit an Employment Certification Form for PSLF?
Typically, you can only get retroactive credit for PSLF if you’ve worked in public service since before October 2007 and you took out loans afterward. To get retroactive credit, you have to find supervisors from past eligible employers and have them sign Employment Certification Forms for you.
The Biden administration relaxed eligibility rules for one year between October 2021 and October 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Payments were retroactively counted even if they were made under the wrong loan repayment plan or were for the wrong loan type. But this waiver is no longer available to applicants.
When to Submit the Employment Certification Form?
The government recommends you submit an Employment Certification Form for PSLF once a year or whenever you switch jobs. This will help the government consistently verify your employer’s eligibility and confirm you’re making qualifying PSLF payments.
More information here:
Keeping Track of Your PSLF Employment Certifications
Because you need proof of your employment with eligible employers, it’s important to keep documentation like IRS W-2s and paystubs. The counter for your 120 qualifying payments will be updated every time you submit a new PSLF form showing another period of qualifying employment. To find more information on how many qualifying loans you’ve made, log in to your account at MOHELA or look through your most recent billing statement for your loan.
Take Advantage of PSLF If You Qualify
While qualifying for PSLF is a slow and sometimes tedious process, the payoff can be huge. If you’re a doctor with a six-figure debt load working at a public or university-affiliated hospital or medical office, you may be a prime candidate to get hundreds of thousands of dollars of loans forgiven tax-free. Pay close attention to the rules, deadlines, and requirements so you don’t get an unexpected rejection when applying for PSLF.
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