Applications for Public Service Loan Forgiveness Now Available
The U.S. Department of Education made the application form for public service loan forgiveness available Friday, September 1, 2017.
Public service loan forgiveness was enacted as part of the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007, effective for loan payments starting on October 1, 2007.
The qualify for public service loan forgiveness, a borrower must satisfy the following requirements:
- Make 120 qualifying payments on federal student loans in the Direct Loan program
- The payments must be made in an income-driven repayment plan, such as income-contingent repayment, income-based repayment, pay-as-you-earn repayment or revised pay-as-you-earn repayment, or in standard repayment
- The payments must be made while the borrower is employed full time in an eligible public service job
- Qualifying employment includes working for public safety (police, fire, EMT); the U.S. military; federal, state, city and county government (except for members of Congress); public health; public education; early childhood education; public librarians; social work in a public child or family service agency; public interest law (including prosecution or public defense or legal advocacy on behalf of low-income communities at a nonprofit organization); and employment with a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable organization
After the borrower has made 120 qualifying payments, the remaining debt including any accrued but unpaid interest will be cancelled. This forgiveness is tax-free under current law.
Although the qualifying payments do not need to be consecutive, the soonest anybody might qualify for public service loan forgiveness is October 1, 2017.
The U.S. Department of Education made an employment certification form available starting in 2012. Borrowers could use this form to determine whether their employment qualifies for public service loan forgiveness.
The U.S. Department of Education recently said that borrowers couldn’t rely on this form because it is not final. The U.S. Department of Education also said that some previous determinations of eligibility by the federal government’s contractor were made in error.
The American Bar Association has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education on behalf of four borrowers who made life-changing career decisions based on the government contractor’s representations that their employment was qualifying.
According to U.S. Department of Education statistics, a total of 1.5 million employment certification forms have been filed. Two thirds (66 percent) have been approved and one third (34 percent) have been denied. A total of 611,598 borrowers have filed at least one approved employment certification form. Very few of these borrowers, however, are expected to qualify for public service loan forgiveness in 2017.
The future of the public service loan forgiveness program is uncertain. President Trump’s FY2018 federal budget proposes to eliminate public service loan forgiveness for new borrowers starting July 1, 2018. Existing borrowers would be grandfathered in but only for eligible loans disbursed before July 1, 2018.