8 Ways it Just Got Easier to Achieve Student Loan Forgiveness

New changes to public student loan forgiveness are expected to help hundreds of thousands of borrowers get credit for years of student loan payments.
Last updated Oct 14, 2021 | By Ariel Gardner | Edited By Rebecca McCracken
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Last week, the Department of Education announced broad changes to public student loan forgiveness (PSLF). These changes will count previously ineligible student loan payments and remove much of the red tape that’s left hundreds of thousands of federal student loan borrowers feeling frustrated and unable to pay off their debt.

The PSLF program initially promised to forgive the federal student loans of those employed for 10 years as public workers. This includes teachers, nurses, firefighters, military members, government employees, and religious workers. However, strict requirements meant only 5,550 borrowers saw relief since PSLF’s inception in 2007.

8 ways it’s now easier to achieve student loan forgiveness

1. A limited PSLF waiver

The Department of Education is offering a temporary waiver that runs through October 31, 2022, allowing student borrowers to count all loan payments made while working for qualifying employers, instead of only payments made under a qualifying loan type or repayment plan. This gives borrowers about a year to submit a new application for PSLF.

2. Simplifying what ‘qualifying payment’ means for PSLF

The changes to PSLF will provide massive relief to borrowers who have struggled with the strict rules surrounding what qualifies as a payment. This has been one of the biggest complaints about PSLF. The Department of Education will automatically adjust payment counts as long as borrowers have certified employment through PSLF. These changes are expected to help over 550,000 student borrowers.

3. Eliminating barriers for military service members

Service members can now count months spent on active duty to count toward PSLF. This stands even if your loans were in deferment or forbearance. The Department of Education said in a brief, “Members of the military will not need to focus on their student loans while serving our country.”

4. Automated help for service members and other federal employees

In 2022, the Department of Education will start matching data with information held by other federal agencies to automatically give PSLF credit to military service members and federal employees. The hope is that it will also identify other eligible PSLF candidates, like those with Federal Family Education Loans.

5. Reviewing denied PSLF applications

After hearing how many borrowers have reported discrepancies in their PSLF payments, the Department of Education is starting an internal data review to identify and correct any processing errors.

6. Improving outreach and communication

A new PSLF outreach campaign has been set in place to help borrowers understand what steps they need to take if they’re close to hitting their 120 PSLF-eligible payments. The campaign will also inform borrowers of newly qualified payments under the limited waiver and the option to reconsider denied applications.

7. Simplifying the PSLF application process

The Department of Education will start working with local governments, state agencies, school districts, and labor unions in 2022 to make it easier to apply to PSLF. There will also be an option to sign applications digitally.

8. Making long-term improvements to PSLF

Through the Department of Education’s negotiated rulemaking process, there are expected to be continued improvements over time. The Department says proposed changes include allowing certain types of deferments and forbearances.

Don’t qualify for PSLF or just need help to pay off your student loans? You still have options! Consider refinancing your student loans, or if you want to pay off your loans faster, there are always ways to make extra cash.

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Author Details

Ariel Gardner Ariel is a St. Louis-based personal finance writer who specializes in side hustles, paying down debt, and saving/budgeting. Her work for clients has been seen in Forbes and CNBC. When she's not working, Ariel enjoys knitting while watching bad TV, podcasts, hiking, or vacationing with her family.