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Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) is a program that may erase your federal student loan balances, assuming you meet some strict qualifications. After 10 years of on-time payments while working in a qualifying career, you could see your student loan balance wiped clean.

Here’s how to qualify for PSLF:

  1. Make sure your loans are eligible
  2. Find a job from the PSLF list
  3. Choose an income-driven repayment plan
  4. Keep your job and make on-time payments
  5. Complete the application

1. Make sure your loans are eligible

To get PSLF, you’ll need a specific type of federal student loan. Only Federal Direct loans are eligible. Other federal student loans and private student loans don’t count, but you can usually consolidate or refinance those loans if you are looking for a better deal.

Some types of federal loans, like Federal Family Education Loan loans or Perkins loans, can be consolidated into Direct loans that do qualify for PSLF.

2. Find a job that qualifies

Once your loans are eligible for PSLF, you’ll need a job that gives you credit for the PSLF program. The types of jobs that qualify for PSLF are:

  • Federal, state, local, or tribal government organizations
  • 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organizations
  • Other not-for-profit organizations that provide certain types of qualifying public services
  • Full-time AmeriCorps or Peace Corps volunteer positions

This employment certification form will help you ensure your job counts.

3. Choose an income-driven repayment plan

Income-driven repayment plans for federal student loans tie your student loan payment to your monthly income. Each plan works a little differently, but the basic idea is that your student loan payments, under income-driven repayment, can’t exceed a certain percentage of your income.

Only borrowers on income-driven repayment plans can utilize PSLF. Contact your loan servicer to find out how you can opt-in to an income-driven repayment plan.

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4. Keep your job and make on-time payments

Once those steps are in place, you must keep your qualifying job and continue making on-time payments. It takes 10 years of on-time payments, or 120 total payments, to finish your Public Service Loan Forgiveness discharge. And you must be working in your qualifying job full-time while making these payments.

If you want to ensure you do everything correctly so that you qualify for forgiveness, check in with your loan servicer to make sure you’re on track.

5. Complete the application

After 10 years of studiously making every required payment, it will be time to complete the Public Service Loan Forgiveness application. Keep your full-time employment and records of your 120 payments until you complete the entire process.

If you make it through — congrats! Achieving loan forgiveness is a huge accomplishment; you should be proud.

Successfully getting your loans forgiven

Every applicant doesn’t find their loans successfully forgiven. You can find the most common reasons applications for Public Service Loan Forgiveness are rejected, as well as reasons employment certification forms have been rejected.

Why applications for Public Service Loan Forgiveness are rejected

Rejection ReasonPercent of Rejections
Not enough qualifying payments55%
Missing information24%
No eligible loans15%
Employment dates2%
Employer not eligible2%
Source: June 2019 Public Service Loan Forgiveness Data

Reasons for employment certification rejection

Rejection ReasonPercent of Rejections
Missing information62%
No eligible loans16%
Incorrect form type11%
Employer not eligible5%
Source: June 2019 Public Service Loan Forgiveness Data

Applications for Public Service Loan Forgiveness are often rejected because some or all payments were not made in a qualifying repayment plan. If you’re in this situation, you can apply for reconsideration under the Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness (TEPSLF) program.

What to do if you don’t qualify for PSLF

The rules for PSLF are quite narrow. If you don’t have loans or a job that qualifies, you’ll have to find another route to getting your loans paid off. There are some other federal student loan forgiveness programs or you can take steps to get your loans paid off through other means:

  • Job-based student loan forgiveness programs: If you can’t get Public Service Loan Forgiveness, you may be able to wipe your balances clean with another program. Others include programs for teachers and nurses.
  • Income-driven repayment forgiveness: If you are enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan and make consistent payments for 20 or 25 years, you could have your remaining balance discharged. This is most common for people with really big balances.
  • Military student loan programs: If you enlist in one of the major branches of the military, you may qualify for significant financial assistance toward paying off your loans student loans. The Army, Navy, Air Force, National Guard, and Coast Guard all offer programs for student loans.
  • Less common discharges: You may also be able to get your student loans discharged under a few less common scenarios. If your school closed or you are permanently disabled, for example, you might be able to get balances forgiven by the Department of Education.
  • Other state and Federal programs: Your state and some public organizations have their own programs that can help you chip away or eliminate your balances.
  • Student loan consolidation: If you have multiple payments each month, consolidating your loans can simplify your payoff by merging your loans into one.
  • Student loan refinancing: Refinancing can save you money by lowering your interest rate. In many cases, you can do both at the same time.
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Paying off your student loans may be a slow process, but with the right knowledge and support, you can be successful. If you choose the best strategy for your student loan payoff, you’ll start to see progress before you know it and find yourself on track to pay off your student loans for good.

Read More: How to Pay Off Your Student Loans Faster

About the author
Eric Rosenberg
Eric Rosenberg

Eric Rosenberg is a Credible expert on personal finance. His work has been featured at Business Insider, Investopedia, The Balance, The Huffington Post, MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Mint.com and more.

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