Americans now collectively hold nearly $1.6 trillion in student loan debt. The benefits of the government wiping away all student loan debt have been discussed lately, but the unfortunate truth is that most proposals are unrealistic, unlikely, or both.
But while erasing $1.6 trillion of debt is unlikely, most Americans who are struggling to repay student loans don’t realize is that there are already a number of student loan forgiveness programs offered by the government. In fact, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau estimates that roughly 25% of American workers could qualify for one of the most generous programs – the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. However, as of 2016, only 139 people were on track to achieve loan forgiveness through the program any time soon.
If you have federal student loan debt and are employed, you may have a chance at qualifying for PSLF and not even realize it. Here’s everything you need to know about the program.
What is Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)?
Public Service Loan Forgiveness is a program offered by the federal government that is open to borrowers employed by the government or not-for-profit organizations and working in certain public service jobs, such as nursing, teaching, or social work. The program forgives federal direct student loan debt after 120 qualifying payments have been made.
Do I qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness?
Understanding eligibility requirements for PSLF can be challenging, which is likely why so many qualified borrowers are unaware that they could apply for the program. Your eligibility will depend on your loan type, employment, and repayment plan.
Federal direct loans are the only student loans that are eligible for PSLF. These include:
- Federal Direct Subsidized Loans
- Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans
- Federal Direct PLUS Loans
- Federal Direct Consolidation Loans
However, if you have federal student loans that don’t qualify for PSLF but do qualify for student loan consolidation, you can consolidate them through a Federal Direct Consolidation Loan, and that would make you eligible for PSLF.
You must be employed by either the government – at the federal, state, or local level – or a qualifying not-for-profit organization in order to be eligible for PSLF. You must also be employed full-time. If your work is religious or partisan in nature, you probably won’t qualify for PSLF. Otherwise, your particular job isn’t as important as who your employer is. You can change jobs while working toward PSLF as long as you remain with a qualifying employer.