At no cost, advocates and government and non-profit employers can help deliver time-sensitive information to your communities without having to become experts in the program! This document, and its accompanying toolkits, provide a blueprint and resources to help you guide others through the PSLF process.
PSLF Campaign Blueprint
Background on PSLF
PSLF is a federal program for public service workers that cancels the remainder of their federal student loans after ten years of work. PSLF was intended by Congress to broadly promote public service by reducing indebtedness and costs of higher education for borrowers. All government, military, and 501(c)3 non-profit employees are eligible. Certain other non-profit employees are also eligible. There is no cost to the State or to employers to access PSLF, and there is no cap on the amount that can be forgiven.
Although an estimated 9 million public service workers nationwide qualify to have their debts eventually cancelled through PSLF, since the program’s creation in 2007, fewer than 150,000 have received cancellation nationwide as of May 2022, and only 15 percent have filed papers to track their progress. This is due to historically poor program administration, loan servicer misconduct, and a failure to properly communicate requirements to borrowers.
The federal government announced a special eligibility window from October 6, 2021, through October 31, 2022, during which borrowers can recuperate past payment credits toward forgiveness that they missed. Many will receive enough credit to have their loans cancelled, and others will be positioned to build on the credits they receive and to continue their public service work and receive cancellation in the future. However, this is not automatic, and borrowers must take proactive steps by October 31, 2022, to benefit.
The key step is for a borrower to complete and submit the PSLF Application Form, available through StudentAid.gov. For borrowers who have non-Direct loans, they must consolidate them prior to submitting the form.
This waiver has been poorly communicated, but it is working! Hundreds of thousands more borrowers than ever before are applying to PSLF, and over 140,000 have had their debts forgiven. The goal now is to get as many public service workers with federal student loan debt as possible to apply by the October 31, 2022, deadline.
Financial Benefits for Borrowers
The benefits from PSLF are not abstract. Although there is limited data available on average amounts forgiven for PSLF, they can range from the low thousands to $100,000 or more. The average amount forgiven through the PSLF program was $97,220, and through the PSLF Waiver process was $62,294, as of May 2022. Although many borrowers may receive greater or lower amounts of relief than these current averages, the potential benefits for public service workers are likely to be very substantial. This is life-changing for most households, and can be accessed at no cost to borrowers or employers.
Other Benefits of PSLF
Employers also stand to benefit under PSLF. Many government and nonprofit jobs require a college degree or advanced degree as a condition of employment. Congress was concerned it is difficult to fill government and nonprofit jobs because they tend to pay lower salaries. PSLF helps boost the incomes and savings of government, military and nonprofit workers, so they will have more money available to form families, purchase homes and pay for other household needs and expenses, helping support state and local economies. For government and nonprofit employers, PSLF helps strengthen employment recruitment and retention for positions that otherwise might be hard to fill.
Statewide or local coalitions of government and non-profit employers, and advocacy partners can launch PSA campaigns across the country to help public service workers access PSLF by the October 31, 2022, deadline. The goal of these campaigns would be to raise awareness about PSLF and to ensure employers are onboard and ready to certify their employees’ employment. In areas where a campaign is not feasible, individual employers can still follow this blueprint to help deliver PSLF to their employees, at no cost.
Governments, as large public service employers, can deliver information to their employees and call on other large public service employers, such as hospitals and schools districts, to do the same until the deadline. This campaign can be framed as a “Challenge” and call to action for employers. This will have the added benefit of creating trusted messengers to continue providing critical information about student loans in the future.
After a public launch, the Challenge campaign could list each employer who participates and provide borrower-facing information, to generate additional participants and share the steps these employers are taking to support their employees.
- Committing to participate as a public service employer (government agencies and nonprofits).
- Sending a regular email to employees dedicated to information related to PSLF (content can be provided to employers) (this can be modified to include changes in real time). Given the upcoming October 31 deadline, weekly or biweekly emails would help call employees’ attention to PSLF while leaving time to take action. The email would refer employees to the primary PSLF waiver website, but also give links to other resources and toolkits where borrowers and employers can get more information, including sample toolkits provided along with this overview.
- Directing employees to partners’ webinars on PSLF (several advocacy organizations offer free webinars that employees can join) or hosting your own staff webinar.
- Designating a clear point of contact in HR to process PSLF forms (multiple points of contact, outside HR, can also be designated in certain circumstances).
- Training HR Departments on PSLF (an “Employer PSLF Toolkit” is available here)
- Scheduling/attending a high-profile press conference/kickoff event (for major stakeholder groups), and/or possibly participating in follow-up public events on a regional or local level
- Tracking the number of forms signed per employer. To really make it a “Challenge,” employers can track and share the number of forms they signed for their employees during August, September, and October.
Assistance to Employers During Challenge
There are several local and national nonprofit organizations that are experts in PSLF, student loan law, and consumer protection. These organizations can help answer questions that employers or their employees have as they navigate the PSLF process.
To support the development of these campaigns, employers and advocates can access the following resources, available on this website:
- Toolkits with resources that employers can share with employees related to PSLF;
- Free and open borrower-facing online materials and webinars to which employers can direct employers for assistance; and
- Virtual trainings and “office hours” to support employers and to answer any questions during the Challenge
The deadline to access PSLF during the waiver is October 31, 2022. By that date, borrowers need to have filed paperwork certifying their employment, and some borrowers will need to take an additional administrative step with the Department of Education.
For this reason, employers and advocates should not wait to get started! Even before a formal campaign is “launched” individual employers can start sharing information about PSLF with their employees.
Any government employer and any 501(c)(3) employer, as well as certain other non-profit organizations, are eligible employers for PSLF. These are the employers who should participate in the Challenge, and include:
- State government (executive, legislative, judiciary)
- County and local governments
- Public school districts
- Public libraries
- Public and non-profit colleges and universities
- Public service and non-profit associations
- Public defenders, legal services, and social work organizations
- Museums and cultural institutions
Although labor unions are not themselves eligible employers under PSLF rules, they can be powerful allies in helping get local unionized employers engaged.
If you are a government or non-profit employer:
Share this resource with your leadership and start planning how to disseminate information about PSLF to your own employees.
Then, share this information with your network and start to develop a coalition to get the word out.
Governors, attorneys general, county executives, mayors, state legislators, and non-profit executives are all excellent conveners to organize a PSLF PSA campaign in your community!
If you are a borrower or an advocate:
Share this resource with government and non-profit employers in your network!
To contact the U.S. Department of Education directly, you can email email@example.com