Public Service Loan Forgivness and School Psychologists

Posted by Kelly Vaillancourt Strobach PhD, NASP Director, Government Relations

In 2007, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF) was signed into law. Since 10 years of payments and full time employment are a prerequisite for forgiveness, eligible loans can be forgiven for the first time beginning in October 2017, for those who have met the forgiveness criteria and have followed all the necessary steps to have their loans forgiven (more on the requirements later).  This program extends loan forgiveness to public service employees, including those who work in a public school setting.   There are very specific requirements that must be met in order for loans to be forgiven after making qualifying payments over 120 months, while concurrently being employed at an eligible work site. Over the years, NASP has created several resources about PSLF, which are available on our website.  However, the most reliable source of information about PSLF is the US Department of Education Office of Federal Student Aid.  This website has a wealth of information regarding PSLF, including an FAQ and other critical information that is updated on a regular basis.  A few of the most commonly asked questions are summarized below, but you are encouraged to consult all of the resources made available from the Department of Education.  If you have specific questions about your unique situation, please contact your loan servicer or the Department of Education.

Commonly Asked Questions

What federal student loans are eligible for forgiveness under the PSLF Program?

Any non-defaulted Direct Loan is eligible for loan forgiveness. The Direct Loan Program includes the following loans:

  • Direct Subsidized Loans
  • Direct Unsubsidized Loans
  • Direct PLUS Loans-for parents and graduate or professional students
  • Direct Consolidation Loans

If you have another type of federal student loan, you may consolidate them into a Direct Loan in order to qualify for PSLF; however, any payments you made prior to consolidation into a Direct Loan will not count toward the 120 payments required for forgiveness.

How do I know what kind of loan I have?

If you are not sure what kind of student loan you have, you can find more information by logging in to your account at StudentAid.gov/login.  Private student loans are not eligible under PSLF, but some other types of loans can be consolidated into a Direct Consolidation Loan.

What types of public service jobs will qualify a borrower for loan forgiveness under the PSLF Program?

You must be employed full-time (in any position) by a public service organization. These are some of the organizations that meet the definition of "public service organization" for purposes of the PSLF Program:

  •  A government organization (including a federal, state, local, or tribal organization, agency, or entity; a public child or family service agency; public elementary and secondary schools, colleges and universities; or a tribal college or university)
  • A not-for-profit, tax-exempt organization under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code
  • A private, not-for-profit organization (that is not a labor union or a partisan political organization) that provides one or more of the following public services:
    • Early childhood education (including licensed or regulated health care, Head Start, and state-funded prekindergarten)
    • Public service for individuals with disabilities and the elderly
    • Public education

Each year you need to complete an employment certification form that acts as verification that you are employed in a qualified work setting.

What are the specific loan repayment requirements for loan forgiveness under the PSLF Program? 

  • You must have made 120 separate monthly payments after Oct. 1, 2007, on the Direct Loans for which you are requesting forgiveness. Payments made before this date do not count toward meeting this requirement. Each of the 120 qualifying payments must be made for the full scheduled installment amount and no later than 15 days after the scheduled payment due date.
  • The 120 required payments must be made under one or more of the following Direct Loan Program repayment plans:
    • Any income-driven repayment plan
    • 10-year Standard Repayment Plan
    • Any other Direct Loan Program repayment plan; but only payments that are at least equal to the monthly payment amount that would have been required under the 10-year Standard Repayment

Learn about your repayment plan options at StudentAid.gov/repay-loans-understand/plans

How do I apply for PSLF?

You must first complete the Employment Certification Form.  If it is determined that you meet all necessary eligibility criteria you will be notified of how many qualified payments you have made toward PSLF and your loans will be transferred to FedLoan Servicing, who handles all loans in the PSLF program.  Additional information about the application process is available here.

I have been making payments in PSLF for 10 years, what do I do to get the rest of my loans forgiven?

Currently, there is no application to apply for forgiveness as October 2017 is the earliest that any person will have met all of the criteria necessary to have their loans forgiven. An application will be made available as that date approaches.   

Public Service Loan Forgiveness in the News

Over the past few weeks, there have been a number of articles (for example, this story from NPR, and this one from the New York Times) highlighting concerns that some people who believe they have been making qualifying payments toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness have been told they no longer qualify, which has resulted in a lawsuit against the Department of Education.  If you are already signed up for PSLF, keep making your payments and filing the correct paper work.  At this time, we have no reason to believe that those employed full time by a public school or qualifying private school enrolled in PSLF are impacted by this lawsuit. If you want to be certain that your employer qualifies as a public service employer, you should file the aforementioned employer certification form each year, and every time you change jobs, or loan services.   If you want to verify that you have the correct type of loans and are in a qualifying repayment plan, contact your loan servicer or the Federal Office of Student Aid.  

NASP will continue to share relevant information about the various loan forgiveness options available to school psychologists; however, all inquiries about your specific student loan situation should be directed to your loan servicer or the Department of Education.