Coach Q&A: Public Service Loan Forgiveness Pitfalls
November 5, 2019

Hi I’m wondering if you can talk me through if I’m going to actually get Public Service Loan Forgiveness. I’ve seen a lot in the news about people getting denied and I’m worried.


Only about 1% of the borrowers who applied have had loans forgiven under Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). That’s enough to cause any borrower to worry. What the statistic doesn’t show are the reasons borrowers were denied forgiveness. I’ll talk through exactly what you need to check off to get your loans forgiven under PSLF.


Make sure you meet all the PSLF requirements.


  1. Right Student Loans. Only Federal Direct Loans are eligible for forgiveness under PSLF. That means if you have an older federal loan type called FFEL, they’re not eligible for forgiveness as they are. To make FFEL loans eligible for forgiveness you would need to consolidate them to a Federal Direct Loan.
  2. Eligible Employment. You must work full-time or at least 30 hours/week (whichever is more) for an eligible employer. Eligible employers include government, tribal, and non-profit 501(c)3 organizations. You’ll want to complete the Employment Certification Form (ECF). Approval of this form triggers a count of eligible payments made to date and provides a paper trail of eligible employment.
  3. Right Repayment Plan. You must make 120 months of eligible payments. That means you have to be on the right repayment plan. The four income-driven plans: PAYE, REPAYE, IBR, and ICR; are eligible repayment plans. The 10 year standard plan is technically an eligible repayment plan. However, you will have repaid the entire balance of your student loans in 10 years and have nothing left to be forgiven. You will need to apply for an income-driven repayment plan and re-certify your income annually.


Make sure you stay on track for PSLF.


  1. Re-submit your ECF annually. This provides a paper trail of your eligible employment. Completing the ECF will also update the count of eligible payments made. Identify miscounts early and get them fixed by comparing your most recent official payment count to your personal count.
  2. Renew your income-driven repayment plan annually. You have to re-submit income information every year and renew this plan. If you don’t payments may no longer be based on income and may not count toward your required 120 payments.


PSLF pitfalls to avoid.


  1. Don’t refinance any loans you want to get forgiven. Refinancing loans privatizes federal money. Refinanced loans are not eligible for PSLF and get be converted back to federal loans.
  2. Don’t consolidate if you’ve already made eligible payments. Consolidation restarts the repayment clock at 120 and erases any progress you’ve made. Consolidation is only helpful for FFEL loans that must be converted to Direct Loans to be eligible for PSLF.
  3. Don’t delay on renewing your income-driven repayment plan. Best case scenario you end up paying more for a couple of months than you have to. Worst case scenario is you make payments for months that don’t count toward your required 120.


Confirm you meet the PSLF requirements and take steps to stay on track for PSLF. This sets you up for loan forgiveness success.