Public Service Loan Forgiveness Employer Toolkit
In This Toolkit:
Deliver student loan cancellation to employees for FREE through Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)
As a government or non-profit employer, you can help deliver Congressionally-authorized federal student loan debt cancellation to your employees, at no cost to your organization—through the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. PSLF offers loan cancellation to borrowers after 10 years in government or non-profit work and completion of 120 qualifying loan payments.
This toolkit provides simple instructions for how government and non-profit employers can help their employees take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
On August 24, 2022, President Biden announced that the administration would cancel $10,000 in federal student debt for borrowers who earn less than $125,000 ($250,000 for married borrowers), and an additional $10,000 if those borrowers received a Pell Grant to attend school. The announcement does not change the PSLF program rules. Even if some PSLF-eligible borrowers may qualify for cancellation, we urge them to still apply for PSLF, as PSLF would eliminate any remaining debt. FAQs about cancellation are available here.
AN OPPORTUNITY TO SUPPORT EMPLOYEES
An estimated 9+ million public service workers across the country qualify to pursue PSLF and eventually have their debts cancelled, but only a fraction have received this benefit. We need your help to make sure your employees get the loan forgiveness they are eligible for!
Your organization does not need special knowledge or expertise in federal student loan programs to help your employees access PSLF. There are already free, high-quality resources to which you can direct them.
It would be hard to overstate the excitement and gratitude your employees will experience when you help them cancel their federal student loans. If you can help even one employee by publicizing this opportunity, it will be worth it. Imagine the magnified impact you can have if loans are cancelled for 5, 10, or 25 employees!
Sharing information to help your employees address their student loan debt through federal programs like PSLF is a win-win situation.
PSLF is a federal program for public service workers that cancels the remainder of their federal student loans after ten years of work. PSLF was intended by Congress to broadly promote public service by reducing indebtedness and costs of higher education for borrowers.
Promoting PSLF eligibility promotes staff recruitment and retention, and helps employees save money. In addition, PSLF loan relief is an economic stimulus that helps reduce the race and gender wealth gaps in America.
All government, military, and 501(c)(3) non-profit employees are eligible. However, until recently, less than 2% of borrowers obtained forgiveness. This was due to historically poor program administration, loan servicer misconduct, and a failure to properly communicate requirements to borrowers. Now, due to some exciting improvements described below, the program is much easier to access and administer.
HOW PSLF WORKS
To access PSLF, public service workers with federal student loans need to certify with the Department of Education that they work at least 30 hours a week for a government or non-profit employer, which is considered “full-time” for PSLF purposes.* This definition of “full-time” is for PSLF purposes only and has no bearing on how you categorize workers for other employee benefits. Some part-time workers are eligible, too, if they work multiples with public service employers and their cumulative hours across those jobs equals at least 30 hours a week.
Public service workers certify their employment and hours using a simple form created specifically for this purpose, the PSLF Form, which requires the employer to confirm past or ongoing employment. See our “Sample PSLF Form” for detailed information, guidance, and tips + tricks for easily filling it out.
In short, because they work for YOU, your employees can build credit toward having their federal student loans cancelled. This is a free benefit you can offer your employees just by notifying them about the opportunity and confirming their employment.
*Note: the PSLF rules will formally define “full-time” as equal to 30 hours a week for PSLF purposes beginning July 1, 2023, but the Department of Education has stated it will accept forms using the 30-hour standard effective immediately.
PSLF PROGRAM UPDATES
Throughout 2021, 2022, and 2023, the federal government has made several temporary and permanent changes to the PSLF program in an effort to help more borrowers take advantage of its debt cancellation benefits. Throughout these changes, however, the role of the public service employer has remained the same: help inform employees about PSLF and certify their employment.
Follow these TWO steps to help your employees access student debt cancellation for FREE through Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF).
Sharing information to help your employees address their student loan debt through federal programs like PSLF is a win-win situation. And you do not need to become a student loan expert to do it!
The two critical steps that every government and non-profit employer must take are to:
Inform your employees about their eligibility for student debt cancellation through PSLF.
To complete this step, all you have to do is regularly send your employees a notice with information about PSLF. This can be done via email or through any communication platform you prefer. A “Template PSLF Email” is provided here ↓ as part of this toolkit.
In this alert, you can include information about the many free PSLF resources and webinars they can use. You do NOT have to provide loan counseling or PSLF expertise, just tell them about the program!
Sign the required “PSLF Form” to confirm employment.
In order to access PSLF, public service workers with federal student loans are required to certify their:
Government or non-profit employment with the U.S. Department of Education; and
Full-time status (at least 30 hours a week) with one employer, or part-time status adding up to at least 30 hours a week in part-time work for multiple employers.
To do this, workers must fill out a simple form that was created specifically for PSLF, called the PSLF & TEPSLF Certification and Application Form, or the “PSLF Form.”
The PSLF Form is a simple, two-page document—employers only need to complete Sections 3 + 4, which are both located on page two of the form. Employees can generate the form using the Department of Education’s online PSLF Help Tool.
The form requires employers to fill out two small sections confirming the above requirements on behalf of employees.
To make this step easy, we’ve created a “Sample PSLF Form” with detailed information, guidance, and tips + tricks for easily filling it out.
Your employees will need your IRS Employer Identification Number (EIN). You can help them by including your EIN in the communications that you send them about PSLF (See our “Template PSLF Email").
Employers must sign Section 4. You can designate anyone to sign the form, such as HR staff or supervisors, as long as they have access to the employee’s employment records.
Best practice is for employees to fill out this form annually to track employees' PSLF progress.
After you finish Steps 1 + 2— you’re done!
Helping your employees access PSLF is as easy as taking the two steps described above. Again, you do not need to become an expert on student loans in order to fulfill your role as a qualifying employer for PSLF.
But if issues do come up, remember you are not alone! There are several government agencies and non-profit organizations who can answer questions that you may have. The important thing is to remember that you are in an excellent position to publicize the availability of loan forgiveness to your employees. Please do not let uncertainty about the process stand in the way. If you have questions, ask for help!
Thank you in advance for your efforts to spread the word about this critically important opportunity.
PSLF Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Who is a qualifying employer for PSLF?
A: Government organizations and 501(c)(3) non-profits are qualifying employers. A non-profit that is not a 501(c)(3) but offers public services may also qualify. Service in an AmeriCorps or Peace Corps position qualifies. When in doubt, complete the PSLF Form to get a final determination.
Q: Does an employee’s position or title matter for PSLF eligibility?
A: No. What matters is that they work for a qualifying employer, in any role, which is determined by the employer’s federal Employment Identification Number (EIN).
Q: Are all employees eligible?
A: As long as they work at a qualifying public service employer, the only restriction to an employee’s eligibility is that they must be considered a full-time employee. The Department of Education considers full-time to be at least 30 hours per week. If an employee works at least 30 hours per week but is not considered a full-time employee, i.e., your organization considers 35 or 40 hours a week to be full-time, you can still consider them to be full-time for PSLF purposes and indicate that they are full time on their PSLF Form. Otherwise, there is no limitation on who can qualify. Employers should still complete PSLF Forms for part-time employees, as they can combine those hours with hours worked during the time period for another qualifying employer to meet the 30-hour minimum.
Q: Who can sign the PSLF Form?
A: You can designate any employee to be an Authorized Official as long as they have access to employment records to verify the employee’s period of employment. This is stated on the PSLF Form itself in the instructions.
Q: Can I submit the PSLF Form online on behalf of my employees?
A: No. The Department of Education does not currently have an online submission system. Your employees should submit completed forms to:
U.S. Department of Education
633 Spirit Drive
Chesterfield, MO 63005-1243
If your employee has loans that are already serviced by MOHELA, they can upload their form through their account on MOHELA’s website, but employers cannot access those accounts.
Q. Why are submitted forms rejected?
A: PSLF forms will be rejected if they are incomplete, if the completed information is illegible, or if it does not have a handwritten signature. The signature does not have to be an original, but it must have been drawn using a pen or stylus by the Authorized Official; stamps, typed names, or cursive fonts are not accepted. Be sure to review the form carefully and complete all the required information.
Q: How often should the PSLF Form be completed?
A: Employees can submit this form at any time. They are encouraged to submit it annually and upon employment separation.
Q. As an employer, do I need to determine whether employees qualify for forgiveness?
A: No. You can refer employees to studentaid.gov and other trusted resources for employees to learn about their eligibility. There is no harm or consequence if an employee submits a signed form and it is later determined that the employer is not eligible. The employer's only role is to certify the periods of their employment.
Q. How long does it take to process forms once they are submitted?
A: As more borrowers have become aware of the PSLF program and submitted forms to certify their employment, the wait time to process these forms has increased and can take several months. The Department of Education has been clear, though, that once a PSLF form is submitted, there is no further role for you as the employer unless you are directly contacted by the Department (which is uncommon).
Q: What was the time-limited PSLF Waiver that ended on October 31, 2022?
A: The PSLF Waiver was a time-limited waiver that was issued by the Department of Education and expired on October 31, 2022, which waived certain requirements of the PSLF program to allow borrowers to receive retroactive credit for past payments that were previously ineligible.
Even though the PSLF Waiver has expired, the Department of Education extended most of the benefits and protections of the waiver through the IDR Account Adjustment. Learn more about the IDR Account Adjustment program here.
Neither the Waiver nor the Account Adjustment change the employer’s role of completing the PSLF Form.
*Note: Borrowers whose loans are not held and managed by the Department of Education must consolidate their loans by December 31, 2023, in order to benefit from this extension.
Q: By signing the PSLF Form, what am I actually certifying?
A: The PSLF Form only certifies the fact that the individual is a past or present employee, the number of hours that they worked for you per week, and the type of organization they worked for, such as government or non-profit. That is it. By signing the form, you are not certifying anything to do with job performance or the likelihood that the employee will receive PSLF loan cancellation.
Q: Are there any downsides or risks for the employer in filling out the form?
A: No. Even if your employee is ultimately ineligible for PSLF, because they have the wrong loans or because the employer type is not eligible for PSLF, the employer is not responsible or at all liable as long as they complete the form in good faith. The form only requires the employer to confirm that the individual is a past or present employee and the type of organization.
Q: Is it OK to complete a PSLF Form for an employee if I have previously completed a form for them that covers the same time period of employment?
A: Yes. There is no harm in completing a second form that partially or completely overlaps with a period of time that you have previously certified. Forms are regularly rejected for confusing reasons, and the PSLF program rules change, which may require an employee to have a new form signed.
See more FAQs about PSLF here.
There are several government offices and non-profit organizations that currently provide free and high-quality tools to help public service workers access PSLF. You can direct your employees to these resources. If you are a large employer, you can also contact these providers to inquire about scheduling a webinar tailored to your organization.
Government-Provided Resources for Borrowers
The U.S. Department of Education’s webpage on PSLF: https://studentaid.gov/manage-loans/forgiveness-cancellation/public-service
The U.S. Department of Education’s webpage on the temporary PSLF program changes made through the IDR Account Adjustment: https://studentaid.gov/announcements-events/idr-account-adjustment
The U.S. Department of Education’s webinar on navigating the PSLF Help Tool: https://bit.ly/KalturaPSLFDynamicHelpTool
The webpage for MOHELA, the student loan servicer contracted to administer PSLF: https://www.mohela.com/pslf
The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s webpages on PSLF: https://bit.ly/CFPB-PSLF-Borrower-Help
Borrower Non-Profit Webinars
The Student Borrower Protection Center’s webinars on paths to student debt cancellation, including PSLF : https://youtu.be/-n8blgUKdhY
Several states have state-based student loan ombudsmen who may be able to assist individual borrowers. A list of student loan ombudsmen is available here: https://www.cancelmystudentdebt.org/student-loan-state-resources
Employer Resources + Support
The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently published an Employer’s Guide to Assisting Employees with Public Service Loan Forgiveness, which explains PSLF, proposes an action plan for employers, and provides sample employee communications. Please note, however, that the guide was published in August 2021 before the changes discussed in this guide. Therefore, the program eligibility rules in the guide may not be accurate. However, the program overview, employer role, and sample documents may still be informative.