On October 6, 2021 the Department of Education (ED) announced it was making sweeping changes to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (PSLF). If you’re not familiar with the program, PSLF was implemented to assist those working in the public or non-profit sector by offering tax-free loan forgiveness after 120 qualifying payments. But therein lies the challenge – figuring out which payments qualify is confusing and often borrowers pay for years only to find that some or none of the payments count toward loan forgiveness. That explains why although over a million borrowers have made at least one qualifying payment, only an estimated 5,500 borrowers have actually had loan balances forgiven.
While not all of the changes below will be permanent, they will ensure the program will be better positioned to fulfil its mission of alleviating the debt burden for those choosing public service. Changes include:
- A limited PSLF waiver that allows all federal loan payments to count toward PSLF forgiveness requirements, regardless of loan program or payment plan – including loans from the Federal Family Education Loan program (FFEL) and Perkins Loan program. Payments must be in the full amount billed and on time. Also, borrowers must submit a PSLF employment verification and forgiveness eligibility form by October 31, 2022. Active-duty borrowers can apply periods of deferment or forbearance toward the 120 required ‘payments.’ This waiver applies only to loans borrowed by students – federal parent loans are not eligible.
- Automatic credit for military service members and federal employees using federal data matches beginning next year. This will eliminate the need for these populations to submit annual employment verification.
- ED will review previously denied applications to identify whether servicing errors or other issues caused the borrower to be ineligible and will reconsider those applicants.
ED will continue to explore additional steps to improve the program and provide the debt relief it promised on the program’s inception. Information for borrowers regarding these and any future updates is available at StudentAid.gov/PSLFWaiver.
For more information on the PSLF program, see our December 2020 Blog, Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) and COVID-19 Relief Measures.