What is a qualifying repayment plan?
To maximize your PSLF benefit, you should repay your loans on the Income-Based Repayment (IBR) Plan or the Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR) Plan, and Pay As You Earn which are three of the repayment plans that qualify for PSLF.
Other PSLF-qualifying repayment plans are the 10-year Standard Repayment Plan or any other repayment plan where your monthly payment amount equals or exceeds what you would pay under a 10-year Standard Repayment Plan.
Before deciding which repayment plan you want to use to repay your Direct Loans, it is important that you understand the implications and costs of that decision. The longer you make PSLF-qualifying payments under a 10-Year Standard Repayment Plan, the lower the remaining balance on your loans will be when you meet all of the PSLF Program’s eligibility requirements. In fact, if you make all of the required 120 monthly payments under the 10-Year Standard Repayment Plan, there will be no balance left on your loans to be forgiven.
Under the IBR and ICR plans, your monthly payment amount will likely be lower than under any of the other PSLF-qualifying repayment plans and your repayment period will likely be longer. Because of the longer repayment period, additional interest that will accrue on your loan, and the smaller monthly payment amount, you will be left with a higher loan balance that could be forgiven. However, if you ultimately do not meet the eligibility requirements for PSLF, you will be responsible for repaying the entire balance of your loan, including all accrued interest.
What are on-time, full, scheduled, monthly payments?
On-time payments are those that are received by your Direct Loan servicer no later than 15 days after the scheduled payment due date.
Full payments are payments on your Direct Loan in an amount that equals or exceeds the amount you are required to pay each month under your Direct Loan repayment schedule. If you make a payment for a month that is less than what you are required to pay for that month, that month’s payment will not count as one of the required 120 monthly payments. If you make multiple, partial payments in a month and the total of those partial payments equals or exceeds the required full monthly payment amount, those payments will count as only one qualifying payment.
Scheduled payments are those that are made under a qualifying repayment plan after your servicer has billed you for the month’s payment. They do not include payments made while your loans are in an in-school or grace status or in a deferment or forbearance period.
You must make separate monthly payments. Lump sum payments or payments you make as advance payments for future months are not qualifying payments. There are special rules on lump sum payments for borrowers whose public service employment is with AmeriCorps or the Peace Corps.