Edmit logo

Do I Qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness?

Featured Stories

Filter By Categories

Public student loan forgiveness or financial aid loan forgiveness programs may be an option for you, depending on the career you choose after graduation. 


"My student loan debt disappeared!" It sounds like a financial fairy tale, but certain federal loan recipients can make it a reality with student loan forgiveness programs. Some of these programs, like those for death, bankruptcy, or permanent disability, can result from uncontrollable circumstances. For the savvy student loan borrower, there are happier options as well, including the public service loan forgiveness programs (PSLF).

Broadly, PSLF forgives the balances on student loans for borrowers serving in certain public service positions. But as with most promises, there’s some fine print. Before financial aid debt forgiveness, borrowers need to make 120 qualifying monthly payments—that’s 10 years, total.


Get estimates for your cost of attendance and loan payoff with Edmit:


Sign up

It’s the “qualifying” bit that can trip you up. College graduates who want to take advantage of the program should make sure to file an Employment Certification form right away when they get a job, refile that form annually, and file it again with every new job. Some 30 percent of people who fill out the form are denied from the program, so it’s crucial student loan borrowers don’t just assume they’ll be included. There’s an online tool that can provide guidance on whether or not a borrower is eligible, but it can't guarantee anyone will be accepted into the public student loan forgiveness program.

To qualify for public service financial aid forgiveness, borrowers can work any job at the government level or for certain nonprofits, or they can join the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps. Not every nonprofit employer will qualify: Groups that are not 501(c)3 tax-exempt (that is, the ones that advertise with phrases like “donations are tax-deductible”) generally don’t unless they exist to provide emergency services, public education, public health services, or law enforcement. Some part-time jobs can qualify too, if they add up to, on average, 30 hours a week.

Only some types of student loans are eligible. The ubiquitous Perkins loan is notably not among them, although consolidating student loans may solve that issue. Loans that include the word “Direct” are already eligible.

The PSLF program has been around since 2007 and was expanded under President Obama. Presently, it could be in danger of disappearing: A House bill referred to as the PROSPER Act would eliminate the program. In addition, the current Department of Education claims there’s been no final decision on whether borrowers will have their debt forgiven. According to NPR, “The department says it has taken no final action on any of those half a million PSLF applicants. It may have accepted their paperwork, the filing states, but those are only ‘interim, non-binding, individualized determinations.’” Additionally, President Trump’s budget recommendations included eliminating the program.

The prospect is frightening for those who made life decisions based on the possibility of student loan forgiveness. As the Federal Student Aid website is quick to point out, signing the Master Promissory Note means you’re responsible for your student loan debt. As the Common Questions section of the site notes: “The fact that you didn’t fully understand the implications of getting a loan, or the fact that it’s been many years since you signed for the loan, does not mean that you do not have to pay.”

In other words, read before you sign on the dotted line.


Sign up for updates

Popular Tags

Financial Aid and Scholarships* paying for college financial aid Cost of College* grants and scholarships FAFSA Student Loans* Saving for College* federal student loans college tuition cost of attendance 529 plan college financial planning financial aid award expected family contribution private student loans taxes room and board college savings plan on-campus housing college applications application fees merit-based financial aid private universities public universities student loan assistance college expenses federal financial aid merit scholarships Salary and Career* budgeting for college edmit hidden gems tuition discount financial need parent PLUS loan southern colleges CSS profile college costs edmit team education expenses living expenses western colleges financial aid appeal income midwestern colleges off-campus housing affordable college college majors loan forgiveness northeast colleges application fee waivers degree programs edmit scholarship institutional aid loan repayment new england colleges choosing a major net price prepaid tuition plans work-study SAT career choosing a college in-state tuition international students need-based financial aid need-blind colleges private scholarships qualified higher education expenses repayment plans tuition guarantee 401k ACT UGMA UTMA budget college ranking systems discretionary income education savings accounts fees free tuition full ride scholarship grants great lakes region colleges health insurance options investment ivy league schools meal plans mid-east region colleges need-aware colleges plains region colleges rocky mountain schools southeastern colleges southwestern colleges student loan debt tuition payment plans 568 presidents group Inversant MEFA applying to college asset protection allowance best price campus life college advisor college deposit college search college spending concurrent enrollment cost by region cost by state crowdfunding educational expenses esports fee waivers financial literacy fraternities and sororities full tuition gap year home equity loan income share agreements internships liberal arts degree line of credit medical expenses military benefits out-of-state students out-of-state tuition percent need met private college consultant retirement savings saving school-based scholarships small business standardized testing state aid state schools student bank accounts student organizations title IV schools travel expenses tuition decreases tuition increases tuition reciprocity undocumented students