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Public Service Loan Forgiveness: How Long Does PSLF Take to Process?

It takes a special person to devote their career to serving others, especially considering most nonprofit and government jobs offer a fraction of the salary you might find in the private sector. 

Fortunately, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program can provide debt relief for federal student loan borrowers after 10 years of qualifying service and payments. If you’ve almost reached the loan forgiveness promised land, you’re probably impatiently wondering… “How long does PSLF take to process?”

PSLF processing times vary based on whether you’ve previously submitted employment documentation and other factors. But you can generally expect to wait one to three months for your loan forgiveness application to be fully processed.

Hurry up and wait: How long does PSLF take to process?

The PSLF program forgives your remaining loan balance after making 120 qualifying payments while working full-time for a qualifying employer. In order to receive credit, you must submit the PSLF form with your employment certification for each employer you worked for while making required payments. Additionally, you must still be employed by a PSLF-eligible organization when you apply for loan forgiveness.

Before the COVID-19 payment and interest pause, our team was seeing PSLF applications processed within one to two months. But now that payments have restarted, things are taking longer to process. Post-payment pause, PSLF processing typically takes anywhere from 60 to 90 days due to servicers being overwhelmed by major changes to the student loan system.

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Factors that impact PSLF processing time

Once you submit your loan forgiveness form, MOHELA — the exclusive PSLF servicer — will review your form to determine if your employment qualifies. From there, it’ll review your payment history to determine how many payments were made during a period of certified employment.

According to StudentAid.gov, PSLF processing times depend on:

  • Whether you previously submitted employment documentation for review versus submitting documentation all at once when you apply for loan forgiveness.
  • The number of qualifying employers you’ve had.
  • If you have gaps in your employment or payment history.
  • If follow-up is required.

Currently, it’s taking longer for PSLF forms to process due to a number of issues, some of which are outside of the borrower’s control.

Follow-up might be required if your documentation isn’t complete

The information you provide on the PSLF form will be reviewed to determine if your employment qualifies and to confirm if you’ve made qualifying PSLF payments. So, the timeline for processing loan forgiveness might be delayed if your paperwork isn’t in order. 

Therefore, it’s important that your employment documentation is complete and accurate at submission. This is a processing factor that is primarily within your control.

When filling out the PSLF Employment Certification Form be sure to double check personal information is accurate, all spaces have been filled out, and the form has been signed and dated. Fortunately, recent updates to the PSLF Help Tool have made it much easier to stay on track by allowing you and your employer to digitally sign the form.

Expect delays if you haven’t certified your PSLF employment before

In the past, loan servicers told borrowers to wait to submit the PSLF employment documentation until they were ready to apply for loan forgiveness after 10 years. This lousy advice resulted in many borrowers being denied PSLF either due to being on the wrong repayment plan, having the wrong loan type or being employed by a non-PSLF-eligible organization.

Imagine working for a decade thinking you’ll receive forgiveness, and then suddenly finding out that none of it counted due to the fine print. Fortunately, the PSLF Waiver (and now the IDR Waiver) is attempting to right many of those wrongs.

After a lot of missteps with the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, employment certification guidance has officially changed. The U.S. Department of Education now recommends submitting your PSLF form annually or when you change employers so you can easily track your progress and address issues right away.

But many PSLF borrowers haven’t recently submitted employment documentation or done so at all. If you’re one of these borrowers, just know that it might take longer for your PSLF form to process — especially if MOHELA has to certify all 120 months of your PSLF journey all at once.

Student loan servicers are navigating a lot of changes

Student loan servicers across the board are dealing with big changes all at once. Payments resumed in October, but the restart has been riddled with payment calculation errors and extremely long call hold times. Additionally, servicers are in the middle of completing a one-time income-driven repayment (IDR) account adjustment.

This one-time adjustment, called the IDR Waiver, can impact PSLF processing times because past periods of repayment, deferment and forbearance might count toward student loan forgiveness.

Normally, consolidating your federal loans would restart the payment count clock. But the IDR Waiver allows the maximum payment credit for PSLF if you apply for a Direct Consolidation Loan before June 30, 2024. Therefore, MOHELA has to look through your entire history for the loans included in the consolidation to determine your PSLF credit, which can extend your processing time.

The good news is that you aren’t required to continue making loan payments while your PSLF form is being processed. As an added layer of protection, there’s a student loan “on-ramp” that will shield you from the potential financial consequences of not making payments.

So, even if it takes longer than usual to process your PSLF form, you won’t be penalized — other than experiencing the emotional rollercoaster of being so close to loan cancellation.

That said, if you choose to make payments while you're waiting for your PSLF application to process, any payments made beyond the required 120 payments will be refunded.

Navigating the PSLF process with expert help

If you’ve periodically submitted your PSLF form, your loan forgiveness will likely be processed quicker than other situations since your eligibility has been tracked over time. You can find out how many qualifying monthly payments you’ve made by logging into your MOHELA account. But keep in mind there might be an opportunity to receive additional PSLF credits by taking advantage of the IDR Waiver before the end of the year.

If you need help ensuring you receive the maximum PSLF credit available, our team of student debt experts can set you up for PSLF success whether you’re at the beginning or the end of repayment. Book a consultation today.

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