Public Service Loan Forgiveness Step-by-Step Guide
On This Page:
Step 1: DETERMINE IF YOUR PAST AND PRESENT EMPLOYERS ARE QUALIFIED PUBLIC SERVICE EMPLOYERS
The first thing you need to do, is determine if your current or past employers qualify for PSLF:
Government Employers (including schools, public hospitals & city departments)
501(c)(3) non-profit organizations
Certain other non-profit organizations
Private, for-profit employers
Go to the federal government’s PSLF Help Tool at studentaid.gov/pslf
Log In using your Federal Student Aid (“FSA”) ID. The first step of the tool is employer verification.
If you do not have an FSA ID: Either create one here, or use the “Employer Search Tool” that does not require login using an FSA ID.
Next, search for your employers by name.
The PSLF Help Tool lets you search and add multiple employers. You should check the eligibility of any employer you have had since October of 2007, as you can receive credit toward PSLF for any qualifying employment since that date.
Click “Add Employer” and then enter your employer’s Employer Identification Number (EIN) and your dates of employment.
TIP: You can find your employer’s EIN on your W-2, by asking your Human Resources department, or by searching online. All employers, including the government, should have an EIN number.
Select your employer from the list generated from your search.
The results will indicate whether the employer is eligible or ineligible.
Employers who have been previously verified will be listed as eligible. Employers that have previously been determined to be ineligible will be listed as ineligible. If your employer does not show up in the search result, they may still be eligible. If your employer does not show up but you believe your employer qualifies you should proceed with the PSLF process.
Be sure to repeat this process for any employer you have had since October 2007.
Step 2: DETERMINE IF YOUR LOANS QUALIFY
After you've identified your past or present employer as qualifying for PSLF, you need to determine if your federal student loans also qualify.
You can receive credit toward loan forgiveness no matter what type of federal student loan you have. However, depending on the type of federal loan you have, you may have to take additional steps.
**Note: As of the end of 2022, Parent PLUS loans are eligible for PSLF credit under the IDR Account Adjustment. Read more about what this means in our blog here.
To verify your type of loan: Go to studentaid.gov and log in using your Federal Student Aid (“FSA”) ID. If you do not have an FSA ID, click “Create Account.”
If you have forgotten your username or password, click the “Log In” button and follow the prompts for either “Forgot My Username” or “Forgot My Password” to retrieve your account information.
When you log in, you will see your student aid dashboard. On the dashboard, click “View Details.”
If you have “Direct Loans” taken out at the same time you will qualify for loan forgiveness without having to change the loan type.
If you have “Direct Loans” taken out at different times, you can choose to consolidate these loans to get PSLF for all of your Direct Loans at the same time.
If you have “Federal Family Education Loans” (FFEL), Perkins Loans, or any other loans without the word “Direct” you will need to consolidate your loans. You can learn about consolidating your loans in Step 3.
**Note: Commercial FFEL borrowers will need to consolidate to access the IDR account adjustment anyway.
IF YOU HAVE ONE OR MORE DIRECT LOANS:
Go directly to Step 3: Submit your employer certification form to apply for PSLF.
Tip: If you have multiple Direct Loans from different periods of time, such as taking time off between pursuing an undergraduate and graduate degree, you may want to consider consolidating before submitting your employer certification. This will result in all of your Direct Loans being forgiven at the same time that your oldest Direct Loan would be forgiven.
IF YOU HAVE ONE OR MORE OLDER FEDERAL LOANS KNOWN AS FEDERAL FAMILY FFELP OR PERKINS LOANS:
Proceed to Step 3: Consolidate your loans into a single Direct Loan.
**Warning: As of September 29, 2022, any NEW consolidation loans that combine privately-held FFELP Perkins Loans (loans not covered by the payment pause) with federal loans already owned by the federal government may miss out on $10,000 or $20,000 in new debt cancellation. This does not affect eligibility for PSLF or cancellation under IDR plans.
Step 3: CONSOLIDATE YOUR LOANS
Consolidation is the process of taking out a new loan from the Department of Education to replace your existing loan or loans. When you consolidate your loans, you will be left with one new loan called a “Direct Consolidation Loan.” If you have any loans other than Direct Loans, you will need to consolidate them into a Direct Consolidation Loan in order for your loans to qualify for PSLF. However, if you consolidate after December 31, 2023, the IDR account adjustment deadline, you will lose past credits towards PSLF.
If you consolidate before December 31, 2023 only, your new loan will be credited with as many qualifying payments towards PSLF as whichever previous loan had the most payments before you consolidated. Once you get to 120 qualifying payments, this new Direct Loan will be eligible for forgiveness.
**Warning: As of SEPTEMBER 29, 2022, any NEW consolidation loans that combine privately-held FFELP Perkins Loans (loans not covered by the payment pause) with federal loans already owned by the federal government may miss out on $10,000 or $20,000 in new debt cancellation. This does not affect eligibility for PSLF or cancellation under IDR plans.
**Reminder: Before you consolidate, check that your employer is PSLF eligible!
To consolidate your loans: Go to the federal government’s website: studentaid.gov
Navigate to the “Consolidate My Loans” option under the “Manage Loans” tab.
The online application will allow you to select the loans that you want to include in your consolidation.
TIP: Although you are not required to consolidate your existing Direct Loans, which already qualify for PSLF, the Department of Education has indicated that for borrowers who consolidate all of their loans, it will use the oldest of those loans, which will likely have the most qualifying payments toward PSLF forgiveness, to determine when to forgive the entire new consolidated loan. For this reason, we recommend borrowers consolidate all of their loans together.
The application will also ask you to select the loan servicer that you want for your newly consolidated loan. You can select any servicer, including your current servicer.
You will also be asked to select a repayment plan for your new consolidated loan.
Selecting an income-driven repayment plan, such as Income-Based Repayment or Pay As You Earn, that is affordable is often the best option for most borrowers. Additionally, under the regular PSLF program requirements and the special waiver rules, borrowers on income-driven replacement plans will remain eligible for PSLF. It is important to make sure that your repayment plan is eligible for PSLF.
Generally, the standard 10-year repayment plan and the income-driven repayment plans are eligible for PSLF.
After you have made it to the end of the consolidation application, you will be asked to review terms and sign for your new loan.
Once completed, it may take several weeks to receive confirmation of your new Direct Consolidation Loan. In the meantime, you can still continue the process to apply for PSLF.
Finalize your consolidation application.
**Note: In most cases, you will be able to directly input your income information from the IRS website. However, sometimes you will not be able to have your consolidation application processed online and you will have to submit paper documentation of your income, through tax returns or pay stubs, via mail to your new servicer. The FSA website will direct you on how to document your income.
Step 4: APPLY FOR PSLF BY SUBMITTING YOUR EMPLOYER CERTIFICATION FORM
TIP: Before taking the final step and applying, check if you have:
Determined if your employers are eligible
Identified what kind of federal student loans you have
Consolidated your loans
**Note: Some borrowers are not required to consolidate their loans if they are Direct Loans. For more information see our FAQ.
If you have worked in the public service, such as the federal, state, or local government employment or working for a non-profit, you will need to certify that employment. You can do this at any point, but we recommend doing it annually.
→ Note: In July 2022, MOHELA took over as the dedicated student loan servicer for PSLF. See below for more information.**
To certify your employment for PSLF: Go to the federal government’s website: studentaid.gov/pslf and navigate to the PSLF Help Tool
Log In using your FSA ID. If you do not have an FSA ID, create one.
Use the PSLF Help Tool to generate a PSLF Form. The Tool will guide you through the process.
Have your employer sign the PSLF Form. Navigating the Tool will result in a PDF that you must print, sign, and have your employer sign to verify your periods of employment.
Once you have the form signed by your employer, you should submit it to the student loan servicer listed on the form.
**Starting in July 2022, MOHELA is the dedicated servicer for PSLF. If your account was already with FedLoan Servicing, the prior PSLF servicer, you should receive a notice and your account should be transfered without any action by you. You can find more information on MOHELA’s website at: https://www.mohela.com/pslf.
TIP: If you have had multiple employers since October of 2007, be sure to submit a PSLF Form for every qualifying employer you’ve worked for.