Winning the PSLF Waiting Game

March 23, 2022

You did it! After 10 years of working in the nonprofit space and paying your federal loans, you’ve finally met the required number of payments for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). This is an incredible accomplishment, and a brighter future is around the corner.

But your forgiveness application has to be approved first. And, unfortunately, that can take some time. We know from the borrowers we work with here at Summer that many people are waiting for upwards of two or three months to get a response to their PSLF applications.

This can be an extremely nerve-wracking period, so here are a few things to keep in mind as your forgiveness application is being processed.

A Frustrating Lack of Transparency

Ideally, when you submit your application for forgiveness, you’d get an estimated time frame for how long it will take to verify that all 120 of your payments qualified for PSLF. Instead, the process is a black box. And as you go longer and longer without any word from FedLoan Servicing, the servicer for PSLF, your anxiety builds: Did I do something wrong?

First, don’t jump to the conclusion that you’ve made a mistake. It’s an unfortunate reality that it’s currently taking months to process applications. Money reported that the Department of Education had a backlog of almost 147,000 PSLF-related forms (applications for forgiveness as well as employment certification and loan eligibility documents) in March 2021; that number fell to 100,000 in September. Simply put: just because you haven’t heard back yet doesn’t mean you did anything wrong.

Next, don’t compare your timeline with anyone else’s. Thanks to the Limited Waiver, some borrowers who were previously years away from forgiveness are now having their loans forgiven. And in some cases, the Department of Education has done the work of retroactively applying previous payments, so the borrowers may not have needed to submit anything. This can be confusing to witness if you’re a borrower who’s still waiting for forgiveness, but know that your application will be reviewed.

Lastly, be proactive. It’s not unusual for applications to be rejected the first time, because of small errors on the form or mistakes made by FedLoan Servicing. If that happens, take a deep breath and push back - or let Summer know that you need some help!

Another frustrating piece of the PSLF puzzle is that borrowers regularly find out that their loans have been forgiven only after logging into their accounts. (Ideally, the servicer would contact you.) Knowing this, it does make sense to check your account to see if the balance has been zeroed out rather than waiting for a message from your servicer. But there’s a fine line between checking regularly and checking obsessively, so try to strike the right balance for your mental wellbeing.

Remember: You Will Cross That Finish Line

After spending a decade working and paying off your loans, the thought of waiting months for forgiveness is stressful. But don’t let this waiting period take away from all you’ve accomplished. You’ve worked in public service, you’ve made your payments, and you’re on the brink of starting a new chapter of your life. We couldn’t be more excited for what lies ahead for you, and as always, we’re here to help if you have any questions.

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