Technically, you can also be enrolled in the Standard Repayment Plan—which is the default plan you get enrolled in when you start to pay off your federal loans.
The issue with that, though, is that the Standard Repayment Plan is a 10-year term. And under PSLF, you have to make 120 payments to get your loans forgiven—which takes about 10 years. That means your loan forgiveness kicks in just as you make your last payment.
Bear in mind, too, that the Standard Repayment Plan for Direct Consolidation Loans is different than the 10-year Standard Repayment Plan—and it doesn’t qualify for PSLF. If you have any doubts about whether you're in the right payment plan to qualify for PSLF, call your lender ASAP.
3. Make 120 qualifying payments
What is a “qualifying payment?” We’re glad you asked. To qualify, your payment must be:
Made after Oct. 1, 2007.
Made under an income-driven repayment plan.
For the total payment amount shown on your bill.
No later than 15 days after the bill is due.
While you’re working full-time for a qualifying employer.
Youcan’tmake qualifying payments toward PSLF while:
4. Complete the Employment Certification for PSLF Form
This form needs to be completed and sent in both once a year and whenever you change employers.
This form documents and ensures that you’re working for a qualifying employer while you make payments. If you don’t do this, you could apply for forgiveness in ten years only to find that none of your payments qualified.
You also have to get your employer to certify this document. Usually the appropriate person is either someone in your Human Resources department, or your direct supervisor. Check with your employer to find out who’s authorized.
Once it’s ready, send the form to this address:
US Department of Education FedLoan Servicing PO Box 69184 Harrisburg, PA 17106-9184
Once the government receives your form, it will notify you whether your employer and loans qualify, or whether they need more documentation. They’ll also tell you how many qualifying payments you’ve made and how far you have to go.
5. Submit your PSLF application
Once you’ve made your 120 qualifying payments, your loan won’t automatically be forgiven. To start the process, you’ll have to submit another form after you’ve made your 120thqualifying payment.
To qualify, you have to be working full-time for a qualifying employer—both when you submit the form and when your loan is forgiven. So yes, you'll need to have your employer certify your employment on this form as well.
Getting your student loans forgiven under PSLF is a decade-long odyssey. But it’s possible. Follow these instructions, and hopefully you’ll get your loans forgiven.
Don't qualify for PSLF? Learn aboutrefinancingyour student loans to lower your monthly payment or pay off your debt faster.
Jen Williamson is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn. She has written for a variety of industries, including software, education, business, and personal finance. Prior to that, she worked at an adult literacy nonprofit in Philadelphia, where she coached nontraditional students in passing the GED test and applying for college. When she isn’t writing or reading—which is rare—she can usually be found planning her next travel adventure, training for a marathon, or sneaking in somewhere she’s not supposed to be. Read more by Jen Williamson
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