By Pamela Murphy, AACOM Senior Vice President of Government Relations
You just graduated and are ready to start the next chapter of your life. You’re moving closer to your dream of giving back to your community through a career in the health professions, thanks to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program. All your hard work has paid off, and now you can’t wait to start making a difference in the lives of your patients and your community.
Over the next decade, you will treat many patients. Your community will change as time passes, and you’ll remain busy throughout the course of your life. Although life will have its ups, downs, and plenty of surprises, one constant over the next 10 years should be your PSLF requirements.
This is a reality for over three-quarters of a million Americans across the country.
At ED to MED, we recognize that PSLF isn’t always guaranteed. It can be easy to accidentally make a mistake that delays or jeopardizes your loan forgiveness. But don’t fret—we’re here to help!
Here are the top eight common mistakes you should avoid when tracking specific requirements for the PSLF Program:
1. Failing to submit an updated ECF each year
Make sure you submit an Employment Certification Form (ECF) when starting your first job in public service and every year until the end of the program. Switching employers? No problem! Just make sure to resubmit an ECF as soon as you do.
2. Submitting mistakes on your ECF
Make sure to thoroughly fill out your ECF, because mistakes could cause it to be rejected. Be certain that you haven’t forgotten any information, such as your employer’s address and Employer Identification Number. Avoid inconsistent information from previous ECFs, like employment start and end dates. Need to correct something on your ECF? Always make sure to initial next to the correction!
3. Leaving your FFEL, Perkins, and Parent PLUS Loans unconsolidated
Only Direct Loans qualify for PSLF, which means you might have to consolidate any other federal loans to qualify.
4. Failing to enroll in an income-driven repayment plan
Only income-driven repayment plans qualify you for PSLF, so make sure you have the correct plan. Income-driven repayment plans don’t just help you qualify for PSLF—they can also reduce your monthly payment total! (Please note: under the Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness opportunity, borrowers enrolled under a nonqualifying repayment plan may temporarily become eligible for forgiveness. Learn more.)
5. Missing the recertification date for your income-driven repayment plan
Now that you have the correct income-driven repayment plan, make sure you recertify every year as required. The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) recommends recertifying each year at the same time on StudentLoans.gov. (Pro tip: you can submit your ECF at this time, too!)
6. Not waiving deferment or staying in forbearance
You do not receive credit toward your 120 PSLF payments if you are in deferment or forbearance, which delays your loan forgiveness date. Be sure you’re using an income-driven repayment plan instead. You can also waive periods of deferment to start making your PSLF payments sooner.
7. Missing payments
Avoid late payments at all costs! Need help managing your finances early in your career? Check out AACOM’s Financial Aid Modules for smart strategies to manage your income.
8. Making early or additional payments
PSLF takes 10 years and 120 separate payments at a minimum and cannot be completed any sooner, even if you pay extra each month.
After 10 years of service to a community in need, make sure you receive the loan forgiveness you deserve. Have more questions about meeting the PSLF Program requirements? Read more about the common mistakes on the USDE’s blog post, and find answers to commonly asked questions.
Lastly, don’t forget to help us in the fight to save PSLF and Grad PLUS loans so that the health care workforce of the future has the same opportunity to receive loan forgiveness. Together, we can make meaningful change for the health care community and the patients these professionals serve.
Know someone that would like to learn more about the PSLF Program? Share this story on social media today!