General FAQs

Who can benefit from Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)?

All full time public service workers with federal student loans can benefit from PSLF. Public service includes work within federal, state, local and tribal governments, nonprofits with a 501(c)3 tax status, and certain other nonprofits.

If I work in public service but the loans are in my spouse’s or child’s name, or if the loans are in my name and my spouse or child works in public service, are these loans eligible for PSLF?

Only loans in the name of the person working in the public service field are eligible for PSLF.

Does the U.S. Department of Education provide any information about PSLF?

Yes. Information from the Department of Education on PSLF can be found here: https://studentaid.gov/manage-loans/forgiveness-cancellation/public-service.

Is there an income cap for who can benefit from PSLF?

There is no income cap for those who can benefit from PSLF.

How much of my debt will be forgiven under PSLF? Is there a cap?

There is no cap on the amount of debt that can be forgiven under PSLF. As long as borrowers work full time in qualifying public service, have Direct Loans, are in an income-driven repayment plan, and make 120 qualifying payments, the entire balance of the federal student loan will be forgiven. During the limited PSLF waiver discussed below, borrowers can access PSLF even if they do not have a Direct Loan and even if they have not historically made payments on an income-driven repayment plan.

I’ve heard/seen references to “ECF” with PSLF. What is that?

“ECF” stands for Employment Certification Form. Recently, the Department of Education changed the name of this form to “PSLF Form.” This form is the form borrowers must use to document their progress toward PSLF with the federal government. Borrowers must have their public service employers sign the form in order to have qualifying monthly payments count toward PSLF.

How does PSLF relate to other federal or state loan forgiveness programs?

PSLF is independent from other federal or state loan forgiveness programs. However, months that count toward forgiveness on the income-driven repayment plans will generally count toward PSLF forgiveness as long as the borrower has qualifying employment in public service. For more information on other federal forgiveness programs, visit this page.

Do I have to “apply” to start getting credit? Have I missed the chance to get credit for past work?

Yes, borrowers must submit PSLF Forms for any qualifying public service work, however borrowers can apply at any point and get credit for past qualifying work and payments, so there is no “missed” chance.

*Note: the limited PSLF waiver discussed below has a special deadline of October 31, 2022.

Is this a permanent program or will it end?

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program is a permanent program. However, the current limited PSLF waiver discussed below (which allows borrowers to receive past credit for previously ineligible loan payments) ends October 31, 2022.

How does PSLF count time toward forgiveness if I took out loans at different times?

In general, PSLF counts time toward forgiveness on a loan by loan basis. In other words, each loan must have 10 years’ worth of qualifying work and payments before it will be forgiven.

However, during the limited PSLF waiver discussed below, borrowers with multiple loans and loans that were taken out at different times can consolidate all of the loans together into a single new loan, the timeline for which will be equal to the borrower’s oldest loan. In this way, once a borrower achieves the 120 credits required for forgiveness, all of their loans would be forgiven.

Is loan forgiveness under PSLF considered taxable income?

At the federal level, no, loan forgiveness under PSLF is not taxable income. Every state treats loan forgiveness differently for state income tax.

Does the public service and qualifying payments have to be consecutive to count?

Time spent in public service making qualifying payments does not need to be consecutive in order to count for Public Service Loan Forgiveness. If one leaves public service and returns, the credit count will pick up where it left off until 120 credits are reached.

Waiver FAQs

What is the limited PSLF waiver?

The limited PSLF waiver is a time-limited waiver that was issued by the Department of Education on October 6, 2021, which waives certain requirements of the PSLF program and allows borrowers to receive retroactive credit for past payments that were previously ineligible.

Through this waiver, borrowers may be eligible to have their loans forgiven in a matter of months, whereas others will get more credit on their account and will be able to continue working toward forgiveness. For more information, you can visit the Federal Student Aid’s site on the waiver.

Do I need to do anything to benefit from the waiver?

Yes. In order to benefit from the current waiver period, all borrowers should certify their past and present public service work with the federal government and many borrowers will need to consolidate their loans.

You can visit this website for step-by-step instructions on how to benefit from the waiver.

To benefit from the waiver, do I need to have enough credit to qualify for forgiveness? Or if I have fewer than 120 credits can I still benefit?

You do not need to have 120 qualifying payments in order to benefit from the waiver.

If you have fewer than 120 credits, you can still submit PSLF forms for previous and current qualifying work and gain retroactive credits. After the waiver period ends, you can continue to accrue credits under the regular PSLF program rules, adding to those you receive during the waiver period.

For borrowers who do receive 120 or more credits through the waiver, their loans associated with those credits will be forgiven.

If I was previously rejected for PSLF, entirely or for certain payments or time periods, what does this limited waiver do for me?

If you were previously rejected for PSLF, you can apply again during the waiver period.

The Department of Education issued the waiver period as a direct response to borrowers’ comments about the program’s inaccessibility so that many borrowers who were previously blocked out of the program could benefit from the time-limited changes.

What is the October 31, 2022 deadline for?

The October 22, 2022 deadline is the date by which borrowers must consolidate their loans into Direct Loans, if necessary, and submit all PSLF forms for any qualifying public service work since October 1, 2007.

If I am getting credit through the limited waiver for time, loans, or payments that previously did not count, how do I continue to get credit in the future after the waiver ends on October 31, 2022?

The general PSLF program requirements will remain in effect after the time-limited waiver period ends. Therefore, borrowers can continue to accrue credits after the October 31, 2022 deadline, and must be sure that they are complying with all program rules (i.e., have a Direct Loan, be enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan, and have qualifying employment).

Employment Certification FAQs

How do I complete the paperwork to certify my employment for PSLF?

To complete the paperwork, you can access the PSLF Help Tool available at Studentaid.gov/pslf, which you can use to generate the necessary form. The form will need to be signed by your employer and then sent to the federal government. Generally, borrowers need to submit PSLF forms for every qualifying public service employer for which they are seeking credit since October 1, 2007.

Can I submit an electronic signature?

Currently, only “wet” signatures are being accepted for PSLF, although a PDF or a fax of the signature is permitted.

**Wet signatures are signatures where a person uses a pen or seal to sign their name on a physical paper document

What can I do if I am unable to get my old employers to sign my employment certification papers?

There is a box to check on the PSLF Form that states:

Check this box if you cannot obtain certification from your employer because the organization is closed or because the organization has refused to certify your employment. The Department will follow up to assist you in getting documentation for your employment. Complete Section 3, but do not complete Section 4.”

You can check this box if you are having issues acquiring signatures from previous employers. The federal government might ask you for additional supporting information.

How often do I need to certify my employment?

There is no requirement to certify employment every year, however, we recommend as a best practice to send in a PSLF form documenting your qualifying employment at least once a year. We also recommend that any time you change employers to make sure you get a final PSLF form documenting your entire period of employment before you leave. Doing the paperwork annually will help catch any potential problems to resolve as early as possible.

If I work for a government agency, is the agency my employer for PSLF, is the general government, e.g., the state or the city, my employer?

In general, your employer will be whichever entity is listed on your paycheck or W-2 tax form. You should ask your Human Resources department to confirm who generally completes PSLF forms.

Who from my employer can sign my PSLF paperwork?

Your employer can authorize any official to sign your PSLF form, as long as that official has access to employment and/or service records. Most employers have designated someone to process PSLF forms. You should ask your Human Resources department who can sign your forms.

If I previously submitted paperwork to certify employment and it was denied, should I try again? Can I use the same forms or do I need to get new forms signed?

First, make sure that all the information on the forms you submitted was accurate and complete. Frequently, forms are denied due to clerical errors like having the wrong EIN number for your employer or not having a “wet” signature, i.e., they have a typed-out electronic signature instead of using a pen.

Second, you may need to call your loan servicer to determine the reason why your employment was not certified, e.g., whether your employer does not qualify as a public servicer OR if there was an issue regarding the number of hours you worked. **If you do call your servicer, make sure to take detailed notes of when you called, who you spoke to, and the substance of the conversation.

If your paperwork was submitted and denied before the limited PSLF waiver was announced in October 2021, you should submit new paperwork. If your paperwork was submitted and denied after the announcement, then you should follow the two steps above, and if you believe you were improperly denied, you can appeal the decision. See below for information on appeals.

If I think I was denied credit toward PSLF–either because my payments weren’t counted or because my employer was considered ineligible–can I appeal?

Yes, if you think you are not getting as much credit toward PSLF as you should, you can appeal the decision letter that you received that has the outcome you want to challenge. The appeals process for PSLF is called “reconsideration.” You can learn more about reconsideration and file a claim here.

However, for most PSLF issues other than employer eligibility, you should file a complaint with the Federal Student Aid office.

How long does it take to hear back once I submit my paperwork?

Because of the increase in PSLF form submissions during the waiver, the government is working through a backlog. It has been taking several months for borrowers to have their accounts credited and, when applicable, their loans forgiven. Anecdotally, borrowers have waited 3-5 months to be processed.

Although it is frustrating to wait without a sure deadline, there is no cutoff time for the government to act. Borrowers must file their forms by October 31, 2022, but the government will continue to give out credit and forgiveness under the waiver after that time for any borrower who files by the deadline.

How can I confirm what past employment I have already certified and the outcome of that certification?

Currently, there is no clear process to confirm which employment has been certified. Once your PSLF form has been processed, you should see an uptick in the total number of qualifying payments made on your servicer’s website.

FAQs About Qualifying Loans

What loan types are eligible for forgiveness under PSLF.

Any federal Direct Loans are eligible for PSLF. Often Direct Loans are referred to by other names. You may hear the terms subsidized or unsubsidized, Stafford, or Grad Plus. All of those loans are Direct Loans. You can determine what types of loans you have by going to your profile on www.StudentAid.gov and looking at your Loan Summary.

Other types of federal loans that were previously ineligible for PSLF, such as FFEL or Perkins loans, are now temporarily eligible for PSLF through October 31, 2022, under the Limited PSLF Waiver once the borrower completes the consolidation process for those loans.

Does PSLF work for both undergraduate and graduate school debt?

Yes. The program looks at the loan type –e.g., a Direct Loan– not what type of education it was used to finance.

FAQs About Qualifying Employment

I work as a temp or a contractor at a government or non-profit employer. Does this qualify me for PSLF?

Contract employment only qualifies for PSLF if you are directly employed by a qualifying employer. It is the status of your direct employer–i.e., who issues your paycheck–that controls. If you are directly employed by a for-profit company that has a contract with a government agency or non-profit organization, then your employment does not count.

If my employer is a for-profit company, can I qualify for PSLF?

No, for-profit employment does not count for PSLF.

What types of non-profit companies qualify for PSLF?

Any 501(c)3 organization qualifies for PSLF. 

A non-profit organization that does NOT have 501(c)3 status may qualify, so long as it provides one of the following services:

  • Emergency management
  • Military service: service on behalf of the U.S. armed forces or the National Guard
  • Public safety
  • Law enforcement: crime prevention, control or reduction of crime, or the enforcement of criminal law
  • Public interest law services: legal services provided by an organization that is funded in whole or in part by a local, state, federal, or tribal government
  • Early childhood education including licensed or regulated childcare, Head Start, and state-funded prekindergarten
  • Public service for individuals with disabilities and the elderly
  • Public health including nurses, nurse practitioners, nurses in a clinical setting, and full-time professionals engaged in health care practitioner occupations, health support occupations, and counselors, social workers, and other community and social service specialist occupations as such terms are defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • Public library services
  • School library or other school-based services
Does working for a Public Charter school qualify for PSLF?

If your public charter school is a 501(c)3 organization or if it is run by a federal/state/local/tribal government, then your employment can qualify for PSLF.

Does working for a private college or university count as public service for PSLF?

If your college or university is a non-profit 501(c)3, then your employment will count for PSLF. Employment at a for-profit college or university does not count.

What does “full time” employment mean for PSLF?

Full-time means you meet your employer’s definition of full-time OR you work at least 30 hours per week on average, whichever is greater. Any leave time provided by the employer i.e. parental leave, sick time, vacation, etc, is excluded. Any leave time taken under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is also excluded. 

If you have more than one qualifying part-time job, you will be considered full-time if you work a combined average of 30 hours per week with both employers.

How long do I have to have worked at my job for it to count for PSLF?

There is no requirement for the length of time at any position to count for PSLF. Your qualifying employment must cover the same time period as repayment on your loans for any given month to count for PSLF.

If I take sick, disability, or family medical leave time off from work, or vacation time, can that time count toward PSLF?

Yes, so long as you remain in qualifying employment during that time. The leave time must be provided by your employer or through Family and Medical Leave Act.

How does PeaceCorps or AmeriCorps service work with PSLF?

Working as a PeaceCorps or AmeriCorps volunteer is considered qualifying employment for PSLF. Volunteers may use their Segal Education Award or PeaceCorps transition payment as a lump sum towards PSLF, qualifying up to 12 payments. Under the IDR account adjustment announced in April 2022, PeaceCorps and AmeriCorps volunteers can receive credit for certain time spent in forbearance or deferment. Click here for more information.

Do I need to still work in public service when applying for and receiving forgiveness through PSLF?

Normally, yes, you must be employed in qualifying public service at both the time that you apply for forgiveness (having already accrued 120 credits) and at the time that your loans are forgiven. Under the limited PSLF waiver, however, this requirement is waived through October 2022. This means that even if you are not working in public service right now, but you previously accrued 120 qualifying payments while working in public service, if you apply for forgiveness by October 31, 2022, you can have your loans forgiven through PSLF.

If I work more than 30 hours a week for a public service employer but they do not consider me to be “full time,” do I have any options?

Under the current rules, the Department of Education requires you to meet your employer’s definition of “full time” if that definition is greater than an average of 30 hours per week. However, the Department is likely to change this later in 2022 to make a flat standard: an average of 30 hours per week will be considered full-time for all borrowers. This change is not currently in effect.

Your employer is permitted under the federal rules to adopt a definition of “full time” that applies only to PSLF, and not to whether an employee qualifies for employer-sponsored benefits. The federal government will review what your employer fills out on the PSLF form and that is it. You can ask your employer to adopt this policy, which is a way for them to give you the benefit of student loan cancellation at no cost to them.

Does public service that I worked before taking out my loans count towards my total public service time?

No. Only time that you worked after October 2007, when PSLF began, and after a particular loan was taken out will count as credit for that loan’s cancellation.

If I’ve changed employers, can past employers count for PSLF?

Yes, past employment can always be certified. You can submit proof of past qualifying employment using the PSLF form at any time.

Would public employment in a foreign country count for PSLF?

It depends. The status of your employer is what counts for PSLF. If your employer is a non-profit 501(c)3, a Federal, state, local, or Tribal government or government agency, or a qualifying private non-profit without 501(c)(3) status, then the location of your employment is not relevant. Work for foreign governments does not count.

What if I have more than one job at the same time? Can both jobs count for PSLF?

Yes, so long as both employers independently qualify. If you have more than one qualifying part-time job, you will be considered full-time if you work a combined average of 30 hours per week with both employers.

Does seasonal work count?

Any month where you were considered a full-time employee at a qualifying employer can count towards PSLF. You will receive credit for the months where you worked full-time.

Why doesn’t employment from before October 2007 count for PSLF, especially if my loans are from before 2007?

PSLF was created through the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 and went into effect in October 2007. The law does not authorize credit for employment that pre-dated its passage.

FAQs About Qualifying Payments

What payment plans qualify for PSLF?

Under the PSLF Waiver, it doesn’t matter what repayment plan you were in, just that you were in repayment. Under the standard PSLF program, you must be enrolled in either an income-driven repayment plan or the Standard 10-year Repayment plan.

How has the limited PSLF waiver changed the qualifying payments eligibility requirement for PSLF?

Under the waiver, borrowers will receive credit toward PSLF for any month for which their loan was in “repayment”–i.e., the loan was not in deferment, forbearance, or default–even if no actual payment was made, and regardless of the loan type. (Please note: non-Direct Loan borrowers will need to consolidate their loan, but will still receive credit for past time in repayment.)

Pursuant to an April 2022 announcement, the Department of Education is also going to adjust borrowers’ accounts to reflect that any time that the account was in forbearance for 12 or more consecutive months, was in forbearance for 36 cumulative months, or was in deferment prior to 2013 will be treated as time in an IDR plan. For PSLF purposes, these corrected numbers will count toward PSLF forgiveness as qualifying payments, and so will likely increase the count that many borrowers receive through the limited PSLF waiver. This adjustment will be automatic and will take place through the beginning of 2023. The adjustment will be done automatically.

Do my payments need to have been full and on time to count for PSLF?

Under the regular PSLF rules, yes, payments must be full and on time. Under the PSLF Waiver, however, past periods of repayment will now count whether or not you made a payment on time for the full amount due on your loan.

Can I continue to make payments on existing loans if I go back to school so that my loans will continue to get credit for PSLF?

In general, if you return to school for at least half time, your loans will be put into a deferment. Time in deferment does not generally count for PSLF. If you want to continue to make payments toward PSLF while in school, make sure that you tell your servicer to keep your loans in repayment first. Also, PSLF requires full-time employment. If you are returning to school and want to make payments toward PSLF, those payments will only count if you are still working full time while in school.

Do payments made in bankruptcy count toward PSLF?

No. Any payments you make while in default will unfortunately not count toward your 120 PSLF payments.

If I had to defer or forbear my payments for a period of time when I couldn’t afford them, does that time count for PSLF?

Past forbearance periods of 12 consecutive months or greater, or 36 cumulative months or greater, will count towards PSLF. This is because the Department of Education is conducting a one-time IDR adjustment for extended periods that borrowers were in forbearance, which it will begin to implement in fall 2022. Going forward, the rules would not count this time toward PSLF.

Whose income is used to calculate payments under IDR? Is it just mine or is it my combined income with my spouse?

For married borrowers who file their taxes jointly with their spouse, the Department will calculate your monthly payment based on your *household* income and debt. For married borrowers who filed their taxes separately, you can remove your spouse’s income and debt when determining your discretionary income for most income-driven repayment plans. Under “Revised Pay As You Earn” (also known as REPAYE), your spouse’s income and debt will be included regardless of how you file your taxes.

How do I know which IDR plan is the best option for me?

When you log in to www.studentaid.gov, you can begin the process of enrolling in an income-driven repayment plan and see which ones you are eligible for and what your monthly bill would be under each. If you’re still unsure, there is always an option on the application that says “place me in the repayment plan with the lowest monthly payment.”

My IDR plans are still too expensive for me. Do I have any options?

The Department of Education offers IDR plans as the affordable repayment plan, because payments are based in part on income, not on loan balance. However, for many borrowers, IDR is not affordable. Unfortunately there are few additional options. For some borrowers, the standard repayment may offer lower monthly payments than an IDR plan. You may also explore a graduated or extended repayment plan, which can lower monthly payments, however these plans generally do not qualify for PSLF.

Is there an income cap for IDR, or other IDR eligibility?

There is no income cap for income-driven repayment plans, but Income-Based Repayment and Pay As You Earn use a debt-to-income ratio called “partial financial hardship.” That means if you are a high-earner with only a small amount of student debt, you won’t be able to enroll into one of these IDR plans.

Does it matter if my payments have only been covering interest, or some of the interest, and not principal?

No, regardless of how your payments are applied, as long as you’re in repayment that time will count towards the limited PSLF waiver. Even under the regular PSLF rules, it is OK if your payments do not cover your interest as long as you are making the full payment required on your monthly statement, as calculated by your IDR or 10-year standard repayment plan.

Can you make bulk payments or payments in advance and have those count for PSLF?

Yes, but only in increments of up to 12 months. It is not possible to qualify for PSLF in fewer than 10 years.

FAQs About Private Loans

Are there any options for those who have private loans? What if they refinanced their federal student loans with a private lender?

Unfortunately not at this time. The PSLF Waiver is only available to federal student loan borrowers with Direct Loans; if you have a privately-held FFEL Loan or a Perkins Loan (usually held by your university), you can consolidate those into Direct Consolidation Loans for the PSLF Waiver.

If I am a cosigner and work in public service, can I have my cosigned loans forgiven through PSLF?

Unfortunately not. The PSLF Program only applies to federal student loans.

FAQs About Parent PLUS

Are Parent PLUS Loans eligible for PSLF?

Yes, Parent PLUS Loans are an eligible loan type for PSLF. However, they do not qualify for the IDR plans that are generally required to accrue qualifying payments toward PSLF. A Parent PLUS Loan borrower can consolidate their loan, and the new Direct Consolidation Loan will have access to the Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR) plan, a type of IDR plan, which will qualify for PSLF.

However, as a result of the April 2022 announcement about a one-time IDR account adjustment, all loans, including Parent PLUS Loans, will receive IDR credit for any month that the loan was been in repayment, as well as for any month in forbearance for periods of 12 months or more of consecutive forbearances or 36 months of cumulative forbearance. This adjusted IDR credit will count toward PSLF. Parent PLUS Loan borrowers who receive 120 or more IDR credits for periods during which they also had qualifying employment will be eligible for loan forgiveness.

Does the limited PSLF waiver work for Parent PLUS Loans?

Parent PLUS loans do not directly benefit from the waiver. However, if a Parent PLUS loan borrower also has a federal student loan that they took out for their own education, they can consolidate the two (or more) loans together. The new Direct Consolidation Loan will benefit from the waiver, even though there are Parent PLUS loan dollars underpinning it. The new loan will have as much credit toward loan forgiveness as the underlying non-Parent PLUS loan that was consolidated.

However, as a result of the April 2022 announcement about a one-time IDR account adjustment, all loans, including Parent PLUS Loans, will receive IDR credit for any month that the loan was been in repayment, as well as for any month in forbearance for periods of 12 months or more of consecutive forbearances or 36 months of cumulative forbearance. This adjusted IDR credit will count toward PSLF. Parent PLUS Loan borrowers who receive 120 or more IDR credits for periods during which they also had qualifying employment will be eligible for loan forgiveness.

If I previously consolidated Parent PLUS Loans with my other federal student loans, are my consolidated loans eligible for the limited PSLF waiver?

Yes, the consolidated loan is eligible for the waiver and will receive as much credit toward PSLF as the non-Parent PLUS Loan was consolidated with the Parent PLUS Loan.

Does the waiver change any of the rules about which IDR plans I can access with my consolidated Parent PLUS Loans?

No. The waiver does not change anything specific to Parent PLUS Loans, including which plans they can access. To access an IDR plan, Parent PLUS Loan borrowers must consolidate their loan.

Is there anything that Parent PLUS Loan borrowers should do now to make sure they benefit from the limited PSLF waiver? What about the IDR adjustment?

Aside from consolidating a Parent PLUS Loan with a non-Parent PLUS federal student loan, there is nothing a borrower can do to benefit from the waiver for their Parent PLUS Loan.

However, through the IDR account adjustment, Parent PLUS Loan borrowers will automatically receive IDR credits on their account for past time in repayment, no matter what plan they were enrolled in, and for certain periods of deferment and forbearance.

These credits will count as qualifying payments under PSLF, and will count as credit toward the 120 credits needed for cancellation if they correspond with periods of qualifying public service employment.

For Parent PLUS Loan borrowers who have over 10 years of repayment history and public service work, the IDR account adjustment therefore may result in the 120 credits required for PSLF loan forgiveness. For other borrowers, it will result in fewer than 120. For these borrowers, they will need to continue to either make payments under the Standard 10-year repayment plan or an IDR plan to continue accruing credits.

To access IDR, Parent PLUS Loan borrowers must consolidate their loans. However, it is not clear at this time whether, upon consolidating, these borrowers can count past work toward the cancellation of their new loan. This answer will be updated once more information is available.

FAQs About Refunds

If I have made more than 120 qualifying payments on my loans, will I get a refund when my loans are given?

Refunds only apply for payments (in excess of 120 payments) that were paid on a Direct Loan. This is true for both Direct Loans and FFEL Program loans that are consolidated into a Direct Consolidation Loan. Payments are returned as they were received (e.g., electronic payment or check). They are typically processed in one to two weeks after forgiveness but it may take longer to get your refund, depending on processing times in other parts of the government.

If I already paid off my loan in full but I would have qualified for loan forgiveness, under the regular program or through the limited waiver, is there a way I can get my money back?

If you have already received forgiveness or paid off your loans, you are not eligible for a refund of prior payments.

I made voluntary payments on my loans during the payment pause. I would like a refund of those payments. Should I request the refund before I consolidate my loans and/or file my PSLF paperwork?

Yes, you should call your current student loan servicer and request a refund of any voluntary payments you’ve made during the payment pause.

FAQs About Consolidation Issues

How do I know if I need to consolidate?

If you have any loans that are not Direct Loans–e.g., a Federal Family Education Loan or Perkins Loan–you will need to consolidate those loans for them to be included in the PSLF program. You can check your loan type by logging into StudentAid.gov and reviewing the loans on your dashboard. Any loan that includes the word “Direct” is a Direct Loan. Any other loan will need to be consolidated.

You can view step-by-step instructions and a tutorial video for checking your loan type here.

Additionally, borrowers who already have Direct Loans may still choose to consolidate them if some of their loans are older. When you consolidate a loan that is closer to 120 credits toward PSLF with a loan that is not as close, the new consolidated loan will receive as much credit toward PSLF as the closer of the two (or more) loans, and the entire amount will be forgiven on that faster timeline, rather than forgiveness of the first loan followed by separate forgiveness of the second loan. It is not necessary to consolidate multiple Direct Loans, but may result in complete debt cancellation faster.

Refunds only apply for payments (in excess of 120 payments) that were paid on a Direct Loan. This is true for both Direct Loans and FFEL Program loans that are consolidated into a Direct Consolidation Loan. Payments are returned as they were received (e.g., electronic payment or check). They are typically processed in one to two weeks after forgiveness but it may take longer to get your refund, depending on processing times in other parts of the government.

What is the difference between consolidation and refinancing?

Both terms refer to the process of taking out a new loan to pay off an existing loan.

Consolidation, however, is when a borrower takes out a new federal student loan to pay off their existing federal student loan(s).

  • When you consolidate, your new federal student loan will have access to the consumer protections and repayment options available under federal law, including PSLF.

Refinancing is when a borrower takes out a private loan to pay off their existing federal and/or private student loans.

  • When you refinance, your new loan will not have access to any of the repayment or forgiveness options available to federal student loan borrowers.

In short, if you refinance with a private lender, you will not have access to PSLF. There is no way to reverse the process once you have privately refinanced.

If I consolidate my loans, do I get credit on my new loan for my past work, or do I need to “restart the clock” on my 120 payments to get loan forgiveness?

In general, you do have to “restart the clock” when you consolidate your loans. This is because consolidation is the act of taking out a new loan to repay your old loans, and you need to accrue credit on that new loan itself.

However, as part of the limited PSLF waiver, if you consolidated in the past or if you consolidate before October 31, 2022–just file the paperwork, it is OK if the process is completed after that date–your consolidated loan will get credit for your past time.

For example, if you entered repayment on your first federal student loan in 2010 and then consolidated in 2015, normally your credit would restart in 2015. During the waiver, however, the Department of Education will automatically go back and give you credit on that consolidated loan starting in 2010. Also, if you consolidate after the waiver announcement and before the deadline, you will receive credit on your new loan for the entire period of repayment on your old loan. However, in both scenarios, you will still need to certify your employment for any period of qualifying public service work.

By when do I need to consolidate my loans in order to benefit from PSLF?

You must consolidate by October 31, 2022. If you do not consolidate by this deadline, you can still consolidate in the future, but your new consolidation loan will not receive credit for time you spent in repayment on your old loan.

It is OK if your application is not processed by that deadline, but you must make sure you have completed the application by October 31, 2022. The application can be completed online at StudentAid.gov in a matter of minutes.

If you have multiple loans that are all Direct Loans, do you still need to consolidate?

No, your loans will all already qualify for PSLF. 

However, you may choose to consolidate if you took out your loans at different times, e.g., undergraduate debt versus graduate school debt–and some of your loans are closer to the 120 credits required for forgiveness under PSLF. When you consolidate a loan that is closer to 120 credits with a loan (or loans) that is not as close, the new consolidated loan will receive as much credit toward PSLF as the closer of the two (or more) loans, and the entire amount will be forgiven on that faster timeline, rather than forgiveness of the first loan followed by separate forgiveness of the second loan. It is not necessary to consolidate multiple Direct Loans, but may result in complete debt cancellation faster.

Once multiple loans are consolidated, will that make them a single loan payment or will there still be payments for each loan?

Your consolidation loan will be a single loan that repays and replaces multiple older loans. (Some borrowers may consolidate a single loan, in which case they will just have one loan replacing another.)

If you are consolidating a combination of subsidized and unsubsidized loans, your consolidation process may result in one consolidation loan for each group of loans, but practically speaking your new loan(s) will streamline payments from multiple older loans.

How will consolidating affect your credit score?

In general, consolidating should not have a negative effect—but in some cases, it could have a minor temporary negative effect.

First, federal student loans generally don’t require a credit check, so there should not be a credit report pull that affects your credit. In fact, consolidating may actually have a positive effect on your credit score since you will be reducing the number of open credit lines on your credit report and your old loans will be shown as “paid in full.” This can increase your score but not decrease it.

However, you will also be adding a new, younger credit line. If you don’t have other forms of open credit, this will mean that now your only credit line is new. This could slightly lower your credit score temporarily, until that new credit line ages.

I previously consolidated my loan. Do payments I made on my old loans before I consolidated count toward PSLF?

In general, consolidating should not have a negative effect—but in some cases, it could have a minor temporary negative effect.

First, federal student loans generally don’t require a credit check, so there should not be a credit report pull that affects your credit. In fact, consolidating may actually have a positive effect on your credit score since you will be reducing the number of open credit lines on your credit report and your old loans will be shown as “paid in full.” This can increase your score but not decrease it.

However, you will also be adding a new, younger credit line. If you don’t have other forms of open credit, this will mean that now your only credit line is new. This could slightly lower your credit score temporarily, until that new credit line ages.

Will I need to provide proof of payments made on old loans pre-consolidation?

No. The Department of Education has your loans’ repayment history. However, it is still a good idea to keep your own records in case there is ever an issue.

I consolidated but not to an income-driven loan. Will this qualify?

During the limited PSLF waiver, any time in repayment will count toward PSLF, even if you were not enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan. However, once the waiver ends, you must be enrolled in a qualifying plan to continue to accrue credit toward PSLF. This means that after October 31, 2022, any payments you make should be on the standard 10-year repayment plan or any of the income-driven repayment plans (IBR, ICR, PAYE, or REPAYE).

Do spousal consolidation loans qualify for PSLF?

It depends.

Joint Direct Consolidation loans can qualify for PSLF and have access to IDR plans. However, for the entire amount to be forgiven, both spouses must have qualifying employment. If only one spouse works in public service, only the portion of the loan attributable to that spouse’s original loan will be forgiven. In that case, both spouses will remain liable for the remainder of the loan. Additionally, each spouse borrower must accrue 120 qualifying payments independently of each other; the payments will not be added up between the two spouses.

Older, joint FFEL Consolidation Loans cannot be consolidated into Direct Consolidation Loans, and so cannot qualify for PSLF.

What if you consolidated your loans more than once? Will payments on both the original loan and the first consolidation loan count for PSLF and forgiveness of my current loan?

Yes, during the limited PSLF waiver period only, time in repayment on any of the loans underlying your consolidation loan, including an earlier consolidation and the loans that were consolidated into that loan, will count toward PSLF if you consolidate and certify your employment by the October 31, 2022 deadline. After the waiver, if you consolidate, you will not receive credit for any time in repayment prior to the most recent consolidation.

FAQs About Using StudentAid.gov

Which of my student loans will I see on StudentAid.gov?

Only your federal student loans will be listed on StudentAid.gov. None of your private loans will be available there.

How do I find out how many payments I've made before I consolidated my loans?

For the limited PSLF waiver, any time in repayment will count toward PSLF if you consolidate and/or certify your employment by October 31, 2022. This means you will receive a qualifying payment for each month since your loans left the post-school grace period for every month that the loan was not in deferment, forbearance, or default.

If you log in to StudentAid.gov and go to your student aid dashboard, you can access a detailed loan history for each of your loans by clicking on “View Details” and then “Download My Aid Data.” This will list any periods of deferment.

Are there advisors or resources that can help me as I apply for PSLF credit?

Some borrowers may qualify to receive financial counseling or legal assistance from local community or legal services organizations. However, it can be hard to find high-quality expertise about the student loan system. Borrowers should be very wary of companies that contact them about their loans or that charge for their services.

Borrowers should begin by reviewing www.StudentAid.gov, then they can watch the tutorial videos at ForgiveMyStudentDebt.org, and finally, they can contact their servicer with questions.

Waiver Processing FAQs

What is the time frame for processing and can I check my status? I have heard that borrowers have to wait months for a response.

There is no set timeframe for processing PSLF applications. The federal government is reviewing applications on a rolling basis. As long as you submit your PSLF forms before the October 31, 2022 deadline, you will receive the waiver benefits, even if your application is not actually reviewed until after that date.

What if I submit my PSLF paperwork and disagree with the response from the federal government?

If you think you are not getting as much credit toward PSLF as you should, you can appeal the decision letter that you received that has the outcome you want to challenge. The appeals process for PSLF is called “reconsideration.” You can learn more about reconsideration and file a claim here

However, for most PSLF issues other than employer eligibility, you should file a complaint with the Federal Student Aid office.

What is the next step if I’ve gone through all the steps and are confident I’ve made 120 payments but was told that I am short payments and don't qualify for forgiveness?

If you think you are not getting as much credit toward PSLF as you should, you can appeal the decision letter that you received that has the outcome you want to challenge. The appeals process for PSLF is called “reconsideration.” You can learn more about reconsideration and file a claim here.


However, for most PSLF issues other than employer eligibility, you should file a complaint with the Federal Student Aid office.

COVID + Cares Act FAQs

Does the current “payment pause” due to COVID affect my PSLF eligibility?

Since March 2020, payments have been paused for most federal student loan borrowers. Payments are currently due to resume after August of 2022, but the pause could be extended.

Each paused month will count as a qualifying “payment” toward PSLF, even though no payment is due. For these months to count as credit toward PSLF, however, you must still have qualifying employment.

Please note that technically the payment pause is an “administrative forbearance.” You may see in written materials about PSLF that forbearance periods do not count toward PSLF. This is generally true, but the payment pause is an exception.

Additionally, you do not need to “leave” the payment pause–i.e., you do not need to ask your servicer to put your loans back into repayment–in order to have these months count toward PSLF.

I made payments during the payment pause. Can I get a refund?

You should file a complaint with the Federal Student Aid office.

FAQs About Servicer Issues

I’ve heard about account transfers between loan servicers. Is there anything I need to do?

Approximately 16 million borrowers will have their accounts transferred at some point, likely before the end of 2022. As a borrower, you should make sure that your contact information is updated to date on StudentAid.gov, you should download as much of your account data as you can, and you should call your servicer to request a complete copy of your account. Additionally, you should look for a notice informing you to which company your loans will be transferred.

What should I do if I have complaints about my student loan servicer?

You should file a complaint with the Federal Student Aid office and with the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

My servicer told me to put my loans in deferment or forbearance, not an IDR plan. What should I do?

You should file a complaint with the Federal Student Aid office, and include details of what your servicer told you, and whether you would have benefited from being in an IDR plan and/or having your months count toward PSLF.

Other FAQs

Are there reputable federal and private student loan specialists to help borrows to navigate all of the complex rules and regulations that can be hired for a nominal fee?

You should never have to pay for help with your student loan. None of the programs available to federal student loan borrowers, including PSLF, have any cost associated with them. However, some companies charge consumers to help you with your student loan accounts. Borrowers can always choose to pay a company, instead of doing it for free themselves, the way a consumer may pay a tax preparer instead of filing their taxes themselves. 

However, you should be on the lookout for scams. Anyone offering “new loan forgiveness” plans or who contacts you directly and who claims to be from the government may be a scammer. Do not give payment information to anyone before exploring all of your options.

Your first stop for free loan assistance should be to explore your options on StudentAid.gov and then to call your student loan servicer to talk about what might be best for you.