Updated 11/28/22: Since this blog post was published, payments and interest on federally-held student loans are now set to resume 60 days after a court decision on President Biden’s forgiveness program. If no decision has been issued by June 30th, 2023, payments will resume 60 days later.
Since announcing the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Limited Waiver and its expanded eligibility rules last year, the Department of Education has granted $10 billion in debt relief to over 175,000 borrowers. But it’s estimated that only 15% of eligible borrowers have applied, despite the waiver’s fast-approaching deadline of October 31, 2022.
If you work in public service, now is the time to take advantage of the waiver. Public Service Loan Forgiveness — which forgives outstanding federal loans for public sector workers who make 10 years of monthly payments — isn’t going anywhere. But the opportunity to count payments on most loan types and repayment plans will end soon. Under the waiver’s temporarily expanded rules, many previously ineligible payments now count toward the 120 payments — or 10 years’ worth — required under PSLF. However, you may need to take action by the October 31st deadline in order to have your prior payments counted.
Here are three steps you may need to complete before the PSLF waiver expires, depending on your situation:
Submit employment certification form(s).
Working full-time for a public service employer is a requirement for PSLF, and you’ll need to submit an employment certification form for each such employer in order for your loan payments to count. You can go as far back in your employment history as October 2007, which is when the PSLF program launched.
If you’ve already submitted forms for former employers and they were accepted, then you’re all set - you don’t need to submit them again. But if there are employers you haven’t submitted forms for, or if you need to submit an updated form for your current employer, you’ll need to do so before October 31, 2022 to access the expanded rules.
By the way, if you’re working with Summer, we need to receive your completed consolidation and employment certification forms (including employer signatures) by October 15, 2022 so that we can review and submit them for you. After that date, you will have to submit forms through Federal Student Aid.
Consolidate your loans (if you need to).
This depends on the type of loans you have. If you have Direct loans, you do not need to consolidate them to qualify for the PSLF waiver. Past payments on FFEL loans will only count toward forgiveness if they are consolidated before the end of the waiver.
Meanwhile, Parent PLUS loans need to be consolidated to qualify for PSLF both during the waiver period and after. Under the waiver, past payments on Parent PLUS will not count unless they’re consolidated with other loans. If they’re consolidated on their own, only future payments will count toward forgiveness.
Notably, under the limited waiver, consolidating your loans will not reset the timeline for forgiveness the way it would have done in the past so your previous payments will actually count toward the 120 target.
If you have Perkins loans, you can consolidate them as well to access PSLF, but Perkins loans have their own forgiveness program that you may be eligible for.
Make sure you’re enrolled in income-driven repayment (IDR) when payments resume.
Unlike the other steps, this doesn’t need to be completed before October 31, 2022 (though we recommend doing this as soon as possible). The current pause on payments and interest is set to expire at the end of this year, so payments won’t resume until January 2023. When the freeze ends, you’ll want to make sure you’re enrolled in an IDR plan so that your payments will qualify for PSLF. Other repayment plans (like Graduated or Extended) will no longer qualify for PSLF once the waiver expires, so enrolling in IDR now will ensure you’re eligible.
We know this process may appear challenging to navigate, but we're here to help. For more detailed instructions on how to proceed based on your individual loan types, read our Help Center article on how to make sure your payments count. Additionally, you can always send us a note with your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a Summer account.
If you’ve already done everything we’ve laid out here, then you’re in a great place! We know that it’s taking the loan servicers and the Department of Education up to three or four months to process forgiveness, so it may take a while to get a response.
Lastly, even though the process can be confusing and frustrating, it’s helpful to remember that getting loan forgiveness is actually achievable. Many borrowers have already experienced the joy and relief of getting to the finish line, and you can get there too. Remember: we’re on your side.