What kinds of employment qualify?
Qualifying employment is any employment with a federal, state, or local government agency, entity, or organization or a non-profit organization that has been designated as tax-exempt by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). The type or nature of employment with the organization does not matter for PSLF purposes. Additionally, the type of services that these public service organizations provide does not matter for PSLF purposes.
A private non-profit employer that is not a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the IRC may be a qualifying public service organization if it provides certain specified public services. These services include emergency management, military service, public safety, or law enforcement services; public health services; public education or public library services; school library and other school-based services; public interest law services; early childhood education; public service for individuals with disabilities and the elderly. The organization must not be a labor union or a partisan political organization.
Generally, the type or nature of employment with the organization does not matter for PSLF purposes. However, when determining full-time public service employment at a not-for-profit organization you may not include time spent participating in religious instruction, worship services, or any form of proselytizing.
What is full-time employment?
You must meet your employer’s definition of full-time. However, for PSLF purposes, that definition must be at least an annual average of 30 hours per week. For purposes of the full-time requirement, your qualifying employment at a not-for-profit organization does not include time spent participating in religious instruction, worship services, or any form of proselytizing.
If you are a teacher, or other employee of a public service organization, under contract for at least eight out of 12 months, you meet the full-time standard if you work an average of at least 30 hours per week during the contractual period and receive credit by your employer for a full year’s worth of employment.
If you are employed in more than one qualifying part-time job simultaneously, you may meet the full-time employment requirement if you work a combined average of at least 30 hours per week with your employers.
What does it mean that my 120 Direct Loan payments must be made while I am working full-time at certain public service organizations?
For a payment to count as one of the required 120 qualifying monthly payments, you must be a full-time employee at a qualifying public service organization on the date that your Direct Loan servicer receives your monthly Direct Loan payment.
In addition, you must be a full-time employee at a qualifying public service organization at the time you apply for PSLF Program loan forgiveness and at the time forgiveness is granted.
How can I keep track of my eligibility?
Because it will take at least 10 years for you to make the 120 qualifying payments necessary to receive PSLF, we have created an Employment Certification for Public Service Loan Forgiveness form (Employee Certification form) that you should submit to us and a process that you should follow so that the Department of Education can assist you in tracking your periods of qualifying employment and your qualifying payments.
The form allows you to get your employer’s certification of employment while you are still employed at that organization or shortly after leaving. The process allows you to receive confirmation of qualifying employment and your Direct Loan payment eligibility. You may also submit the form less frequently than annually to cover more than one year’s employment or for more than one employer.
While use of this form and process is not required, if you want the Department of Education to track your progress toward meeting the PSLF eligibility requirements, you should follow the steps below. If you do not periodically submit the form, you will still be required to submit a form for each employer that you want considered for PSLF at the time that you apply for forgiveness.
- Step 1 — Complete, with your employer’s certification, the Employment Certification form annually or whenever you change jobs.
- Step 2 — Submit the completed form to FedLoan Servicing (PHEAA), the PSLF servicer, following the instructions on the form.
- Step 3 — FedLoan Servicing (PHEAA) will review your Employment Certification form, ensure that it is complete, and, based on the information provided by your employer, determine whether your employment is qualifying employment for the PSLF Program.
- Step 4 — If the form you submit is incomplete or your employment does not qualify, FedLoan Servicing (PHEAA) will notify you and you will have an opportunity to provide additional information.
- Step 5 — If FedLoan Servicing (PHEAA) cannot determine whether your employment qualifies, you may be asked to provide additional information or documentation to help establish whether you were employed by a qualifying public service organization. This documentation may include an IRS Form W-2, pay stubs, or other documents from your employer that substantiate your employment at the organization or documentation supporting your employer’s eligibility as a public service organization.
- Step 6 — If your employment qualifies and some or all of your federally held loans are not serviced by FedLoan Servicing (PHEAA), those loans will be transferred to FedLoan Servicing (PHEAA) so you will have a single federal loan servicer for all of your federally held loans. After your loans are transferred, earlier payments made to other federal loan servicers will be evaluated to see whether they are qualifying PSLF payments.
- Step 7 — FedLoan Servicing (PHEAA) will notify you whether your employment qualifies, and, if so, how many payments during the certification period were qualifying payments, the total number of qualifying payments you have made, and how many payments you must still make before you can qualify for PSLF.
What should I do after I become eligible for PSLF?
After you make your 120th qualifying payment, you will need to submit the PSLF application to receive loan forgiveness. The application is under development and will be available prior to the date when the first borrowers will be eligible for PSLF Program forgiveness, in October 2017. You must be working for a qualified public service organization at the time you submit the application for forgiveness and at the time the remaining balance on your loan is forgiven.
The Department of Education look fsorward to working with you while you learn more about PSLF and work toward your goal of making 120 qualifying payments. If you have any more questions, look at the PSLF Fact Sheet and the PSLF Questions & Answers document or contact your federal loan servicer. If you don’t know the federal loan servicer for your federal student loans, use NSLDS® to get that information.