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In October 2021, the Biden administration introduced a temporary waiver to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program that has allowed previously ineligible payments and loan types to count toward forgiveness.
By applying for the waiver, borrowers can access a number of benefits:
- Borrowers may receive PSLF credit for payments made on ineligible payment plans.
- Borrowers may receive PSLF credit for payments made on ineligible loan types, such as FFEL loans and Perkins Loans, as long as they are consolidated prior to Oct. 31.
- Borrowers may receive PSLF credit for all periods of repayment, regardless of whether a payment was made in full or on time.
- Borrowers may receive PSLF credit for periods of forbearance (12 consecutive months or greater, or 36 cumulative months or greater), periods of deferment prior to 2013 and periods of economic hardship deferment after 2013.
However, the waiver will expire on Oct. 31, so borrowers need to act soon if they want to enroll.
What to do before the PSLF waiver ends
While the PSLF waiver could get borrowers much closer to forgiveness under PSLF, the benefits are not automatic for most. Here’s what to know.
1. Check if you qualify
Public Service Loan Forgiveness is geared toward public servants. To make progress toward forgiveness, you must work full time for a government or nonprofit employer. You will receive credit only for payments made while working for one of these employers.
To make this step easier, the U.S. Department of Education offers a search tool that allows you to assess whether your employer (or previous employer) qualifies.
2. Consolidate any previously ineligible loans
The waiver allows previous payments on FFEL and Perkins Loans to retroactively count toward forgiveness, but you must consolidate those loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan in order to access that benefit.
The application can be found on the Education Department’s website. For the purposes of the waiver, the consolidation application must be submitted online by 11:59 p.m. ET on Oct. 31, 2022, in order for you to qualify.
3. Submit a PSLF form
Whether they’re consolidating old loans or not, all borrowers looking to take advantage of the PSLF waiver must submit a PSLF form. The easiest way to do so is to use the PSLF Help Tool online, which the Education Department estimates should take around 30 minutes to complete. However, you can also submit a paper PSLF form.
To qualify for the waiver, interested borrowers must generate a PSLF form through the PSLF Help Tool by Oct. 31 — you may certify employment and submit the form to MOHELA after that date. If you’re submitting a paper form, the employer’s signature must be dated no later than Oct. 31, even if the actual submission is after this date.
4. Consider enrolling in an income-driven repayment plan
After you’ve consolidated old loans, you may wish to enroll in an income-driven repayment plan. While the waiver counts past payments made on any repayment plan, future payments must be made on either the Standard Repayment Plan or an income-driven repayment plan. The benefit of enrolling in an income-driven repayment plan is that it could lower your monthly payment, therefore maximizing how much debt gets forgiven at the end of PSLF.
To see which plan is best for you, use the Education Department’s Loan Simulator tool and talk with your federal loan servicer.
What to do if you miss the limited waiver deadline
If you miss the Oct. 31 deadline, you will no longer be able to count past payments on FFEL or Perkins Loans, nor past payments made on ineligible repayment plans. However, you can still apply for PSLF to count future payments.
There are also other federal programs that can help you manage your payments. For example, enrolling in an income-driven repayment plan could result in a lower monthly loan payment and the eventual forgiveness of your balance — even if it’s longer than the 10 years required for PSLF.