How to Complete the PSLF Form So You Qualify for Forgiveness

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You’ve worked hard as a public servant since you finished school.

You’ve dutifully paid your student loans each month with the hope that the government would take care of the remainder.

And finally, after 10 long years, you’re ready to apply for loan forgiveness.

Here’s how to complete the Public Service Loan Forgiveness form — and tips to make sure you qualify.

What is the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program?

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program launched in 2007. Its promise: If you pay your loans each month while working at a government or nonprofit agency, the remainder will be forgiven after 10 years.

Unfortunately, the execution has been far from smooth. In July, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) reported that many loan servicers have been mishandling PSLF for their borrowers. Others have been critical of the cost of PSLF, and there’s been speculation the PSLF Program might be discontinued in 2018.

Regardless of future changes to the program, people already pursuing PSLF should remain eligible — and September 2017 was the first time any borrowers were eligible to apply for PSLF.

How to complete the Public Service Loan Forgiveness form

If you’re one of those borrowers, then it’s time to apply for PSLF.

The first step is completing this form. You’ll need to fill out the Public Service Loan Forgiveness application for each employer you had while making your 120 qualifying payments.

Unless you indicate otherwise, the Department of Education will put your loan in forbearance while it processes your application. During this period, you won’t have to make payments. Your loan will accrue interest, however, which you’ll have to pay if your application is denied.

After you complete the PSLF application, you can submit it via mail — or upload it directly to FedLoan’s site if FedLoan is your servicer. Addresses and instructions are on Page 4 of the application, where you’ll also find numbers to call for further assistance.

Once the Department of Education has received all your documentation, it will notify you. According to its PSLF FAQ page, processing times can vary based on factors such as:

  • Whether you submitted Employment Certification forms over the years (if you did, it said your application “will likely be processed more quickly”)
  • The number of employers you had
  • Gaps in your employment or payment history

If your application is approved, the Department of Education will forgive all outstanding interest and principal on your eligible Direct Loans. If you made more than 120 qualifying payments, the extra amount will be refunded to you.

And you won’t have to pay taxes on the amount that’s forgiven, unlike some other forgiveness programs.

If, however, your application is denied, the Department of Education will notify you with the reason.

At that point, you’ll have to start paying your loans again. You’ll be responsible for any interest accrued during forbearance, and, as the Department of Education warned, that interest “may be capitalized.” That means the interest could be added to your principal, forcing you to make payments on a higher amount than you started with.

If you believe the Department of Education is mistaken, you can submit additional information that supports your case, and FedLoan Servicing will re-evaluate its decision.

Make sure you qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness

It’s important that you don’t apply for PSLF until you’re sure you qualify.

Putting your loans into forbearance could be an expensive mistake if your Public Service Loan Forgiveness application is denied. During the processing period, you’d also miss out on many months of making qualifying loan payments.

So, before you fill out the PSLF form, make sure you can check each of the four boxes below.

1. You have Direct Loans

Although there are many types of federal student loans, only Direct Loans are eligible for PSLF.

To check which types of loans you have, you can sign up for our student loan dashboard. If it says “Direct” below your loan, then it’s eligible for PSLF.

If you have several types of federal loans, you can consolidate them into a Direct Consolidation Loan so they’ll qualify — but your prior loan payments won’t count. In other words, the clock on your 120 payments will start over. So, think carefully before you do it.

Are your loans Direct Loans? If yes, keep going. If no, learn more about Direct Loan Consolidation.

2. You’re on an income-driven repayment plan

When you graduate from school, you’re automatically put on a standard 10-year repayment plan. But that wouldn’t work for PSLF; at the end of 10 years, there’d be nothing left to forgive.

So, you must be enrolled in an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan that sets your payments to a percentage of your income. If your payments drop as low as $0, that’s fine — but you must be on one of these plans.

Are you enrolled in an IDR plan? If yes, keep going. If no, learn more about income-driven repayment plans.

3. You work full time at a qualifying employer

Your job is what qualifies you for PSLF. You must work your employer’s definition of “full time,” or at least 30 hours per week, for a nonprofit or government agency.

To track your employers, you should send an Employment Certification form each time you switch jobs. And to prove your employment, the Department of Education suggested retaining W2s and pay stubs.

It’s important to note you must be working for a qualifying employer at the time of your application and at the time of forgiveness, according to the Department of Education. So, don’t join the private sector until your loans have been forgiven.

Did you work full time at a qualifying employer at the time of your 120 payments, and are you still working at one now? If yes, keep going. If no, learn more about qualifying public service careers.

4. You’ve made 120 qualifying payments

Lastly, you must’ve made 120 qualifying monthly payments. They must’ve been made after Oct. 1, 2007, in full and within 15 days of the due date and while you were on an IDR plan and working for an eligible employer.

The payments don’t have to be consecutive, though. If you, for example, were employed in the private sector between nonprofit jobs, you can count the payments you made on either end.

If you’re not sure how many qualifying payments you’ve made, you can log on to the FedLoan Servicing site to check. If your loans haven’t been moved over yet, you can submit the Employment Certification form — after which the DOE will send a letter revealing how many payments you have left.

Did you make 120 qualifying payments? And did you answer “yes” to all the questions above? Then you’re ready to apply for PSLF!

Take your time when you complete the Public Service Loan Forgiveness form, keep copies of everything, and make sure you remain at your qualifying job until your loans have been forgiven.

And whatever the outcome of your PSLF application, please contact us — we’d love to hear about your experience.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

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1 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

  1. VARIABLE APR – APR is subject to increase after consummation. The variable interest rates are based on a Current Index, which is the 1-month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) (currency in US dollars), as published on The Wall Street Journal’s website. The variable interest rates and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will increase or decrease when the 1-month LIBOR index changes.

2 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Student Loan RefinanceFixed rates from 3.999% APR to 7.804% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 2.480% APR to 7.524% APR (with AutoPay). Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at either 8.95% or 9.95% depending on term of loan. See APR examples and terms. Lowest variable rate of 2.480% APR assumes current 1 month LIBOR rate of 2.07% plus 0.91% margin minus 0.25% ACH discount. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, the fixed or variable interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, and the term of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. *To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit inquiry. Unlike hard credit inquiries, soft credit inquiries (or soft credit pulls) do not impact your credit score. Soft credit inquiries allow SoFi to show you what rates and terms SoFi can offer you up front. After seeing your rates, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit inquiry. Hard credit inquiries (or hard credit pulls) are required for SoFi to be able to issue you a loan. In addition to requiring your explicit permission, these credit pulls may impact your credit score
  2. Terms and Conditions Apply: SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)

3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.

CommonBond Disclosures

  1. Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). The following table displays the estimated monthly payment, total interest, and Annual Percentage Rates (APR) for a $10,000 loan. The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) shown for each in-school loan product reflects the accruing interest, the effect of one-time capitalization of interest at the end of a deferment period, a 2% origination fee, and the applicable Repayment Plan. All loans are eligible for a 0.25% reduction in interest rate by agreeing to automatic payment withdrawals once in repayment, which is reflected in the interest rates and APRs displayed. Variable rates may increase after consummation. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.08% effective July 25, 2018.

4 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Education Refinance Loan Rate DisclosureVariable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of August 1, 2018, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.07%. Variable interest rates range from 2.72%-8.17% (2.72%-8.17% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of the borrower’s loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Fixed interest rates range from 3.50%-8.69% (3.50% – 8.69% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a cosigner. Lowest rates shown require application with a cosigner, are for eligible, creditworthy applicants with a graduate level degree, require a 5-year repayment term and include our Loyalty discount and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. The maximum variable rate on the Education Refinance Loan is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens Bank is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of their loan.
  2. Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer with the Education Refinance Loan. Borrowers should carefully review their current benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans and replace those with the benefits of the Education Refinance Loan. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision at http://www.citizensbank.com/EdRefinance, including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
  3. Citizens Bank Education Refinance Loan Eligibility: Eligible applicants may not be currently enrolled, must be in repayment of their existing student loan(s) and must make the minimum number of payments after leaving school. Primary borrowers must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident or resident alien with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. Resident aliens must apply with a co-signer who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The co-signer (if applicable) must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with a valid U.S. Social Security Number residing in the United States. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer will be required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at anytime. Interest rate ranges subject to change. Education Refinance Loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/consumer credit agreement, verification of application information, certification of borrower’s student loan amount(s) and highest degree earned.
  4. Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  5. Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
  6. Co-signer Release: Borrowers may apply for co-signer release after making 36 consecutive on-time payments of principal and interest. For the purpose of the application for co-signer release, on-time payments are defined as payments received within 15 days of the due date. Interest only payments do not qualify. The borrower must meet certain credit and eligibility guidelines when applying for the co-signer release. Borrowers must complete an application for release and provide income verification documents as part of the review. Borrowers who use deferment or forbearance will need to make 36 consecutive on-time payments after reentering repayment to qualify for release. The borrower applying for co-signer release must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. If an application for co-signer release is denied, the borrower may not reapply for co-signer release until at least one year from the date the application for co-signer release was received. Terms and conditions apply.
  7. Average savings based on 18,113 actual customers who refinanced their federal and private student loans through our Education Refinance Loan between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2017. The calculation is derived by averaging the monthly savings of Education Refinance Loan customers whose payments decreased after refinancing, which is calculated by taking the monthly student loan payments prior to refinancing minus the monthly student loan payments after refinancing. The borrower’s savings might vary based on the interest rates, balances and remaining repayment term of the loans they are seeking to refinance. The borrower’s overall repayment amount may be higher than the loans they are refinancing even if their monthly payments are lower.
2.57% – 5.87%Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Earnest
2.80% – 6.38%1Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Laurel Road
2.48% – 7.52%2Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit SoFi
2.47% – 7.99%Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Lendkey
2.57% – 6.65%3Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit CommonBond
2.72% – 8.17%4Undergrad
& Graduate
Visit Citizens
Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.