Our 2022 Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Student Loan Calculator

Public Service Loan Forgiveness calculator

What is Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)?

Public Service Loan Forgiveness, PSLF for short, is a federal student loan repayment program for borrowers working in certain fields, mainly the government or qualifying not-for-profits.  After making 10 years of qualifying payments (120 monthly payments in total), you become eligible to have the remainder of your student loan balance forgiven.

Think you may be eligible?  Download our Public Service Loan Forgiveness calculator.  It will show you your:

  • Projected monthly payments under all of the PSLF qualifying repayment plans

  • Anticipated forgiven balance after you enroll in PSLF

  • An analysis comparing your ten years on PSLF to ten years on Standard Repayment

The program is intended to encourage Americans to enter really important (but less glamorous) public service jobs like teaching, military, and government work.

PSLF eligibility requirements

PSLF eligibility is incredibly complex, but the base requirements are as follows:

  • You must be employed full-time for a qualifying employer, which are most often government and nonprofit jobs (minimum of 30 hours per week)

  • You must be enrolled in a qualifying repayment plan for PSLF.  All income-driven repayment plans count here.

  • Make 120 qualifying monthly payments (ten years worth) after October 1, 2007.

Additionally, there are some (though less rigorous) requirements for federal loan types.  Your federal loans must be part of the federal Direct Loan program.  If your federal loans are not part of this program, you can consolidate your loans via a Direct Consolidation Loan.

Our student loan calculator

Our calculator contains everything that you need to know to get out of debt once and for all.

Which federal student loan repayment plans are eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness?

Below is a list of all qualifying repayment plans that you can use to work towards PSLF.

There is a caveat to this, however.  All 120 of your payments cannot be made under Standard Repayment.  This is because you already would have successfully paid off your federal student loans, leaving nothing to be forgiven under PSLF.  So essentially, you must spend some time in an IDR plan for PSLF to do anything for you.

Also keep in mind that you may be eligible for additional student loan forgiveness programs in addition to PSLF, so you'll want to consider that in any decision that you make.

Temporary PSLF waiver due to the COVID-19 pandemic

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic that is still ongoing, the federal government has stepped in and made changes in an attempt to make PSLF more accessible to certain federal borrowers.

All federal student loans remain in forbearance, where they have been since March 2020, with no payments due until at least 8/31/2022.

The Department of Education has issued a limited time PSLF waiver that eliminates some of the more nuanced eligibility requirements for the program.  Through the end of October 2022:

  • You may get credit for past student loan repayment that normally would not be PSLF eligible (getting you closer to or surpassing the 120 qualifying payments that you need)

  • Past periods that now count do not take into whether payments were made timely, for the full amount, or on a qualifying repayment plan

  • Those that have Perkins, FFEL, or other federal loans will still need to consolidate their loans first

Note that there have been no changes to the qualifying employer requirement.  You can find an entire list of changes at https://studentaid.gov/announcements-events/pslf-limited-waiver.

More information about PSLF qualifying employers

There is more to PSLF than just working for a nonprofit or the government.  To be a PSLF eligible employer, you must generally meet one of the below requirements.

  • ​Government employers at various levels (federal, state, local, or tribal organizations, including the United States military).  The main exclusions to this category are Congress and government contractors doing work for the United States government.

  • Nonprofit organizations should be designated as a 501c(3) tax status by the United States Internal Revenue Code, but those that are not may still qualify if they provide "qualifying public services."

These qualifying services are defined by the federal government as following into one of the following categories:

  1. Emergency management services, including law enforcement and public safety

  2. Public health roles, including nurses, nurse practitioners, and other full-time professionals in health care practitioner occupations

  3. Military service, both active duty and National Guard

  4. Public education, including educators, school librarians, and other personnel

The most common professions to qualify for PSLF are teachers, professors, government workers, police officers, and firefighters.

We oftentimes get questions about whether organizations qualify if they are labor unions or political partisan groups.  Both do not.

You must be employed full-time

For PSLF purposes, the full-time employment threshold is established at an average of thirty (30) hours per week, unless your employer's definition of full-time work is higher than thirty hours per week.  If so, your employer's definition will apply.

The main exception to this rule is if you work two part-time jobs for qualifying employers.  You may still qualify for PSLF as long as you're working 30 hours combined between your two jobs.

Teachers often ask whether payments they make during the summer count if they are not teaching.  They do, so long as you're still employed "full-time" by your district and you work at least eight months out of the year for at least 30 hours a week.

How are your payments calculated under PSLF?

The calculation of your payments under PSLF depends entirely on the income-driven repayment plan that you use (your qualifying repayment plan). 

 

But all income-driven repayment plans use the same basic formula to determine what your monthly payments will be:

  1. Take your household income (include spouse, if applicable) and consider your household size (number of dependents included)

  2. Compare it to 150% of the poverty line for your area of residence (Alaska, Hawaii, lower 48)

  3. Take the difference - this is known as your discretionary income

  4. Take either 10% or 15% of this amount, depending on which income-driven repayment plan you're pursuing, and then divide by 12

  5. This will be your monthly payment

Don't worry - our PSLF calculator can handle all of this for you!

Is PSLF worth it?

For the vast majority of borrowers out there, pursuing PSLF is absolutely something worth doing.  But it depends on what you do for a living and how much you make.

If you're taking a pay cut to work in the public sector for an eligible employer, you should understand what you'd make in the private sector.

Then, once you know what the difference in pay would be, you should consider what your payments would be under a PSLF eligible repayment plan versus what they would be if you joined the private sector and decided to refinance your student debt instead.

If you can find a comparable salary working in the public sector though, then PSLF almost becomes a no brainer.

The ways to "game" the system are not exactly a surprise either.  Those with the most to gain from PSLF are those that:

  1. ​Make high salaries in the public sector

  2. Have low discretionary incomes and may be able to make $0 qualifying payments that count towards the 120 you need

How do I know if I'm on the right track for PSLF?

This is the million-dollar question for Americans nationwide.  You should consider submitting the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) & Temporary Expanded PSLF (TEPSLF) Certification & Application (PSLF Form) periodically.  Once a year is generally a good cadence, but you'll definitely want to consider resubmitting each time you change employers.

By recertifying each year, you are essentially helping the government to keep track of the number of payments that you have made.  You're also clearly signaling your intent to use the program.

As you complete this paperwork annually, the government should send you an updated letter documenting how many qualifying payments you have made.

This form will allow the federal government to more easily keep track of the number of qualifying payments that you have made.  And this will be important once you apply for forgiveness.

Applying for PSLF forgiveness

After you've made 120 qualifying monthly payments (remember - this will take ten years - you can proceed and fill out the same application.  This can be done online via studentaid.gov and also may be something that your federal loan servicer can help you with as well. 

 

But just because you've met the requirements and submitted the application doesn't mean that your loans will be forgiven.

This is where the annual certification form comes in handy.  If you recertify using the aforementioned PSLF form annually (also known as employer certification), it helps the federal government with processing your application.  It will also be less work for you, as you will not be forced to prove that you made all 120 qualifying payments. 

Remember, private student loans do not qualify.  Perkins and FFEL program loans don't usually either, but do right now in response to the Department of Education's changes in October 2021.

Use the DOE PSLF Help Tool

Thankfully, given all the complexities of the program, the Department of Education released an electronic help tool for you to reference.  To access, you'll need to log in with your FSA ID, but once you're in, you'll be able to access information like:

  • PSLF requirements and eligibility information

  • Whether your employer qualifies for the program

  • An estimate of the number of qualifying payments you've made on each loan

Screenshot 2022-04-15 155704.png

How PSLF is more advantageous than IDR or other strategies

PSLF requires you to be on an income-driven repayment plan (as part of the "qualifying repayment" component of the program).  Keep in mind that the most commonly used - Income-Based Repayment (IBR), Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR), Pay as You Earn (PAYE), and Revised Pay as You Earn (REPAYE) - do not have employer-based requirements the way that PSLF does.

But unfortunately, all of the IDR plans mentioned above require you to make 20-25 years of payments before becoming eligible for forgiveness, and even then, your forgiven amount may be taxable).

It's best to think of PSLF as having the best of everything.  You get the perks of reduced payments that IDR plans offer you, you only have to make them for ten years, and the forgiveness that is granted at the end of the road is not treated as taxable income.  When available to you, PSLF is likely the number one strategy for keeping money in your pocket.

How accurate is this PSLF calculator?

No calculator can account for every single variable with 100% certainty.  The data model that feeds our calculator makes a number of assumptions to help you understand what options you may have as you consider all of your student loan repayment and forgiveness strategies.

As such, it is unlikely that your projected payments as reflected by our model will be exactly what you ultimately pay, but our PSLF calculator will give you a great idea as to which options are feasible for your loan situation.

The results that you see from our calculator are intended to be used for educational purposes.  Always verify these numbers with your federal loan servicer directly or through applying for qualifying repayment plans (IDR) through the federal government.

PSLF Calculator Frequently Asked Questions

Are there any income requirements for PSLF?

No!  One of the biggest perks of the PSLF program is that there are no income limits or a threshold in which you lose access to the program.  Let's say you are a higher income individual, but still have a high debt load.  What you may find is that joining a qualifying repayment plan (an IDR plan) may not reduce your monthly payments by very much.

If you find that IDR doesn't save you any money at all off your monthly payments, you're likely to lose the incentive to pursue PSLF.  This is because, by the time you reach eligibility after 10 years of payments, you'd have already paid off your federal loans anyway.

Is forgiveness granted under PSLF taxable?

No!  PSLF benefits are not taxable in the way that income-driven repayment benefits may be.  Our student loan calculator can help you understand the end loan balance you will expect to be forgiven.

How can I limit my monthly loan payments?

Again, keep in mind that you'll be on an income-driven repayment plan as you pursue Public Service Loan Forgiveness.  Since your monthly payments under IDR are largely dependent on your adjusted gross income (AGI), you'll want to lower that figure to lower your expected monthly payments.  This can be done in a few different ways.

  1. Contributing more to your 401(k) and IRA (on a traditional basis, not ROTH)

  2. Contribute to a Health Savings Account (HSA), if available to you

  3. Other applicable deductions 

What assumptions does this PSLF calculator make?

Our calculator is highly customizable and more detailed than any on the market.  You'll have the ability to adjust factors such as:

  • Your future family and children

  • How your future income may affect your PSLF eligibility and payments

  • Which of the income-driven repayment options you are going to use as your qualifying repayment plan

Some assumptions are made by the calculator, however.  These include:

  • Interest rates that won't change over your decade of payments

  • All loans that you hold are assumed to be unsubsidized.

  • Other minor assumptions

These calculations are very complex, so you may find that our calculations are not 100% accurate for every single person considering PSLF.  But it should be a really good tool to gauge whether PSLF is a viable option for you!

Which payment plans qualify for PSLF?

Remember - PSLF eligibility is dependent on participation in a "qualifying" repayment plan.  These are the income-driven repayment plans:

  1. Income-Based Repayment

  2. Income-Contingent Repayment

  3. Pay as You Earn

  4. Revised Pay as You Earn

Don't qualify for PSLF?  Consider refinancing instead

When it comes to dealing with your federal student loan debt, PSLF is far from the only option you have.  For one, at least one of the income-driven repayment plans is likely to be available to you.  And beyond that, private refinancing is always an option that you can consider.

Interested in learning more about the pros and cons of refinancing your student loan debt?  Check out our complete student loan refinancing guide here!

Refinancing, in conjunction with making extra principal payments, can also help you to pay off your student loans early.

And just because PSLF may not be an option for you doesn't mean that there isn't a forgiveness program for you.

There are even other certain forgiveness programs by state.