When it comes to programs for your student loan debt, the Biden administration has really shaken things up over the last year. Some student loan changes, such as the temporary halt on federal loan payments and fixed 0% interest rate, were the result of the pandemic. However, President Biden announced steps to forgive up to $10,000 to $20,000 in student loan debt for borrowers with eligible federal student loans in August of this year, and several IDR waivers have been issued to help borrowers have more payments qualify toward income-driven repayment plans and ultimate loan forgiveness.
The Biden administration also issued a temporary Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) waiver in order to get more borrowers pursuing PSLF on track. According to the U.S. Department of Education, this measure and others should lead to at least 40,000 PSLF borrowers having their loans forgiven right away.
That said, borrowers should note that the temporary PSLF waiver will only apply for eligible borrowers who take steps to consolidate their loans and submit the PSLF form required by October 31, 2022. The U.S. Department of Education says borrowers who submit a consolidation loan application before midnight on the day of the deadline and take other steps to qualify for the PSLF waiver may still be eligible.
If you’re curious what the temporary PSLF waiver is and what happens after October 31, 2022, read on to learn more.
How The Limited PSLF Waiver Program Works
According to the U.S. Department of Education, the temporary PSLF waiver is a one-time change to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program that aims to let borrowers get credit for more payments they have made on their student loans, including payments that would not otherwise qualify forward PSLF. This program ends on October 31, 2022, so borrowers on PSLF have a limited time left to apply.
Here’s a summary of the changes that come into play for those approved for the waiver:
- Borrowers may receive credit for payments they made toward PSLF that wouldn’t otherwise qualify provided they apply for the waiver before the deadline. Examples of payments that might count now include payments not made on time, payments for less than the amount due, and payments not made on an eligible repayment plan.
- Borrowers with FFEL Program loans, Federal Perkins Loans, and other federal student loans, will need to consolidate their student loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan to qualify for PSLF and the waiver.
- Periods of forbearance that lasted for 12 months or greater (or up to 36 months of cumulative forbearance periods) can count toward PSLF through the waiver.
- Any months spent in deferment before 2013 can count toward PSLF under the waiver, per the U.S. Department of Education. The same applies for economic hardship deferment that took place on or after January 1, 2013.
With all this being said, periods spent in default or in-school deferment do not qualify for the temporary PSLF waiver, notes the Department of Education.
If you’ve been pursuing PSLF or sitting on the sidelines wondering whether you qualify, it’s easy to see why these changes are important. For example, PSLF previously only counted payments made on Direct student loans. Now, however, borrowers can consolidate their old FFEL Loans into Direct student loans, and get previously ineligible payments to count.
Until October 31, 2022, borrowers can even qualify for student loan forgiveness if they’re not employed (or not employed by a qualifying employer) at the time of application – so previously eligible employment will count. The U.S. Department of Education also adds that, “if you got Teacher Loan Forgiveness, the period of service that led to your eligibility can count toward PSLF if you certify PSLF employment for that period.”
How To Take Action Now
Qualifying for the temporary PSLF waiver requires you to have an approved PSLF form for the program, and you have to have at least one Direct Loan. If you don’t have a Direct Loan, you must consolidate into a Direct Loan by October 31, 2022. You can do this on StudentAid.gov.
You also have to be eligible for PSLF in the first place, which you can check on or verify eligibility in a number of ways that are outlined within the U.S. Department of Education website.
From there, you can use the PSLF Help Tool by the program deadline in order to automatically create the PSLF form you need to be approved for the temporary waiver. And even then, you still have to print and sign the PSLF form you get from MOHELA, as well as having your employer sign it.
Even if you cannot have all the steps completed by the October 31, 2022 deadline, the Department says you can be considered for the waiver later on provided you use the help tool by the deadline.
Of course, you can also apply using a manual PSLF form (not generated by the PSLF Help Tool) and have your employer sign it before submitting it, although it must be dated by or before the deadline.
If you’re not even sure whether you qualify for PSLF or you haven’t done so yet, you’ll also want to make sure your current employment is eligible for the program. To make this part as easy as possible, you can do this by performing a PSLF employer search.
As already mentioned, borrowers with student loans in the FFEL Program, Federal Perkins Loans, and other federal student loans will need to consolidate their student loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan to qualify for PSLF as well. This step has to be initiated by October 31, 2022, and you also must submit the PSLF form by that date.
The Bottom Line
Time is running out for people who potentially qualify for PSLF but have been holding onto the wrong loans. This waiver ends after October 31, 2022, so there’s no time to delay if you want to determine your eligibility for relief.
Also remember that even a few more months of payments can make a big difference in terms of the benefit you get from PSLF. After all, having loans forgiven several months sooner can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in interest or loan payments, and you’ll get to celebrate your freedom from student loan debt that much sooner.