Thousands of public service workers with student debt are getting a boost. Are you one of them?

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Thousands of public service workers with student debt are getting a boost. Are you one of them?

The Department of Education (DoEd) just announced a limited-time waiver that retroactively approves federal student loan payments that had previously failed to meet the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program’s eligibility requirements. 

The DoEd estimates that more than 600,000 borrowers stand to have their debt reduced — or cancelled altogether — thanks to the waiver. If you could be one of them, here’s what you need to know:

How does the PSLF waiver work?

Under normal circumstances, borrowers are eligible to have any remaining balance on federal Direct Loans forgiven after they make 120 on-time payments while enrolled in a qualified repayment plan and employed full-time in the public sector or at a nonprofit.

But with the waiver, any ineligible payments you’ve already made will now count towards your 120 payment requirement, as long as the payments were made while you worked full-time at a qualifying employer and if the payments met one of the following disqualifications:

  • Not made under a qualified repayment plan
  • Paid to other types of federal student loans (with the exception of Parent PLUS loans) 
  • Not paid on time
  • Slightly overpaid or underpaid

How do I take advantage of the waiver?

The next steps you need to take to benefit from the waiver depend on the specifics of your loans. If you’re not sure which of the following scenarios applies to you, you can find a summary of your federal loans at studentaid.gov.

If you have FFEL and/or Perkins Loans: If you have at least one FFEL and/or Perkins Loan, even if you also have federal Direct Loan(s), you need to consolidate all your loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan before October 31, 2022. After you consolidate, you also need to submit a PSLF Form and Employment Certification Form (ECF) before October 31, 2022. 

If you only have Direct Loans, but you haven’t submitted an Employment Certification Form (ECF) and/or PSLF Form: You need to submit an ECF and/or PSLF Form before October 31, 2022 to certify your employer and tell your servicer you want to participate in PSLF. 

If you only have Direct Loans and you’ve already submitted an ECF or PSLF Form: If you meet these requirements but previous payments were ineligible because of your loan type or repayment plan, or because you made late payments or didn’t pay the full amount due, you’re in luck — you’ll automatically be credited for those payments as long as your employer was approved. 

How long will it take to receive credit for my previous payments?

The DoEd said that it could take up to several months (after loans are consolidated and/or paperwork is completed, if needed) before borrowers see their payments applied to their loans.

What will happen if the waiver results in more than 120 qualifying payments?

As long as you’ve already had your employer certified, you’ll automatically receive a refund for excess payments and receive a notification that your loans have been forgiven. 

I’ve already received PSLF forgiveness by making 120 qualifying payments, but I also made some ineligible payments that would be covered by the new waiver. Can I get a refund for those extra payments? 

Only borrowers who have not yet received forgiveness are eligible for the waiver.