Policy Matters Blog

Public Service Loan Forgiveness Q&A

School psychologist and NASP Board member Karah Chapman answers a Q&A regarding her successful experience using the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.

What general advice would you give to members who are considering enrolling in or who are currently working towards Public Service Loan Forgiveness?
The biggest thing that I would recommend is to reach out to FedLoan Servicing. This is the only loan servicer that monitors the public service loan forgiveness program. Their website is myfedloan.org. They work with studentaid.ed.gov.

There are four big things to know about this program:

  1. You have to have a loan that is forgivable (or if you have one not on this list you'll need to work with fed loan servicing to consolidate your non-qualifying one into your qualifying ones):
    1. Direct Subsidized Loans
    2. Direct Unsubsidized Loans (including TEACH Grants that were converted to Direct Unsubsidized Loans)
    3. Direct PLUS Loans for graduate or professional students
    4. Direct Consolidation Loans (including Special Direct Consolidation Loans)
  2. You need to be employed full time with an organization that meets the requirements of a public service and keep verification of that employment up to date with fedloan servicing
  3. You must make 120 on time payments while employed full time and not go into default. You can be in forbearance, but those months won't count in the 120 months. Note: The CARES Act contained a provision that counts each month from April–September 2020 towards the 120 payments, whether you make a payment or not.
  4. You're repayment method MUST fall under one of the Income Driven Repayment (IDR) types:
    1. Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE)
    2. Pay As You Earn (PAYE)
    3. Income-Based Repayment (IBR)
    4. Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR)

What was the biggest obstacle you encountered in your process of applying for forgiveness?

When I first consolidated, which I only did because a phone support person with my previous loan servicer "Direct Loans" (they no longer exist) told me I needed to move my loans over to FedLoan servicing if I wanted to participate and track my status. When I consolidated, they didn't have my payment count accurately represented, missing 2 years of repayments. Because Direct Loans had gone out of business and I didn't have the paper records of every single payment, I had to spend hours and hours over many months calling FedLoan Servicing and trying to reach my old loan servicer to get it sorted. When I was finally able to get them to find the payments I was then told that I wasn't enrolled in an Income Driven Repayment (IDR) type that qualified, which I knew wasn't the case but again couldn't prove. I was finally able to submit a piece of paper from the years they weren't counting that showed that I was in a repayment plan that was an IDR plan the whole time. I struggled with phone support who would tell me different things and had to keep detailed notes of each call. I had to track down old bank records and dug out any paper I had held on to from Direct Loans to make my case. 

I finally got all of the payments on track but they were saying that one of my loans had 2 months of payments more than the other, which was weird because I only made one payment on my end and it was divided evenly and counted evenly between the two loans. I get paid on the 25th, so one month I paid on the 1st and then when I got paid on the 25th I paid (for what I thought would be my next months payment, on the 26th but they counted that as me paying twice for one month instead of two months. So I had to get that sorted, and then I was very diligent about ONLY paying that bill after the 1st of each new month. 

It was exhausting but once I managed to get those things all sorted it was seamless. 

Were there any resources that were particularly helpful to you? 

Honestly, the best resource is myfedloan.org. Additionally, since all of the denials have happened they have really ramped up the transparency of the process. I also at one point worked with a watchdog agency that is supposed to help people to get these things sorted, but I didn't find them very helpful. They had so many cases and very few people to work on them and, come to think of it, I'm not sure if I ever heard back from that person after two exchanges. 

Did you communicate with anyone through your loan servicer or at the Department of Education? Any communication tips to get your questions answered?

There was a point when FedLoan servicing was my main outgoing call. I spent so much time on the phone with them; some people were really helpful, some not so much. I would recommend keeping very detailed notes including the dates, times, and summaries of the conversations. I would recommend that you keep hard or digital copies of your payment receipts, repayment type status documents, and honestly any communication that comes from the servicer. Don't rely on them to keep that secure for you. 

Any other specific, key tips to keep in mind?

Keep your employment verification updated at least once a year. It's a simple form you can find on their website, and you and your human resources department fill it out and you upload it to your account. They will recalculate where you are in your qualifying payments each time you submit this form. Keep these forms and date stamp them for when you submitted.  

Take the time to read the small print of these documents, honestly it's not their responsibility to make sure you know this stuff. They provide it, and yes the small print is annoying and long, but it's your responsibility as a consumer to know those things.