Understanding Public Interest Loan Forgiveness

With many job opportunities available at hospitals, schools, and other nonprofit institutions for communication sciences and disorders professionals, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program may provide student loan repayment options for you. In a two-part series for The ASHA Leader—"Navigating Student Loan Forgiveness for Audiologists and SLPs" and "Is Public Service Loan Forgiveness for You?"—financial planning expert Jacob Parish offers tips to understand and navigate PSLF.

PSLF allows qualifying professionals working full time in public service to have their federal direct student loan balances forgiven after 120 qualifying payments. To be eligible for PSLF, you must meet three qualifications regarding employment, loan type, and repayment-plan type.

1. Are You a Full-Time Employee in Public Service?

To be eligible, you must meet both parts of the employment requirement:

  • Full-time employee: For your employment to be considered full time under PSLF, you need to average 30 hours a week or meet your employer's definition of full time, whichever is greater. The average of 30 hours can be achieved through more than one employer. If you work for a school, your contract for the school year is considered full time even though you're not technically working the full year.
  • Working in public service: According to the rules of the PSLF, a public service institution is a government organization at any level, a 501(c)(3) organization, or other not-for-profits providing qualified public service.

2. Do You Have a Loan(s) Under the Direct Loan Program?

Qualifying loan types:

  • Direct Unsubsidized
  • Direct Subsidized
  • Direct Plus
  • Direct Consolidated

Some loans do not qualify, such as:

  • Loans made under the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program
  • Federal Perkins
  • Private loans

3. Are You on an Income-Driven Payment Plan?

Qualifying payments must be made after October 2007 and fall under one of the income-driven plans to qualify. Eligible income-driven plans include:

  • New Income-Based Repayment (New IBR)
  • Pay As You Earn (PAYE)
  • Old Income-Based Repayment (Old IBR)
  • Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE)
  • Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR)

Some ASHA members might be eligible for student loan forgiveness. These resources can help you determine if you are eligible and the requirements to apply for the PSLF program and maintain your eligibility: