The first class of borrowers are now eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Unfortunately, loan servicers, the Department of Education, FedLoan Servicing, and Congress have been attacking the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, causing more confusion about the application process and making it more and more difficult for borrowers to repay their student loans. One great way to prevent confusion and prepare for forgiveness is to submit the Department of Education’s Employment Certification Form. Here’s five ways filling out this form will help you now and in the future:
1. It Helps You Track Your Payments
Without submitting an Employment Certification Form, it may be tough to track the necessary 120 overall qualifying payments you have to make. Your current loan servicer might say that you’ve made a certain number of payments, but only the Department of Education and FedLoan Servicing, the sole loan servicer for PSLF, can give you the number of payments that the Department has on file. This can prevent many issues around payments that can occur when applying for forgiveness.
2. You Can Better Track Your Employment over the Years
When you apply for forgiveness after 120 qualifying payments, you must show that you worked in qualifying employment over that time. Do you want to have to track down your previous employers, ask them to sign a form, and if they won’t, explain to the government why they won’t sign the form? I know I wouldn’t want to do that! It’s easier to submit an Employment Certification Form annually or whenever you switch jobs. This also has the added benefit of the government informing you if your employment qualifies. Be warned though: the Department of Education saying your employment is qualifying does not mean that determination is binding.
3. You’ll Be Prepared to Fill Out the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Application
If you’ve ever taken a look at the new Public Service Loan Forgiveness Application and the Employment Certification Form side-by-side, you’ll notice the forms look almost identical. By filling out the Employment Certification form frequently, you’ll have plenty of experience when getting ready to fill out the PSLF Application, and will better understand what FedLoan Servicing and the Department of Education are looking for on these forms.
4. FedLoan Servicing Becomes Your Loan Servicer (the Earlier the Better!)
Although there are many reported problems with FedLoan Servicing, they are still the sole loan servicer for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Filing an Employment Certification Form early will switch you over to FedLoan Servicing, giving you the early experience of working with the servicer. If you know early on how to hold FedLoan Servicing accountable and how to respond if they say a payment is not qualifying, you will be in a better place than many people submitting the PSLF application after 120 qualifying payments.
5. The Government Will Know How Many People are Relying on Public Service Loan Forgiveness
With the White House wanting to cut the program completely, and Congress attempting to cripple the program, it is more important than ever that borrowers let the government know how important the program is to them. You can do this by calling your elected officials and telling them to join the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Caucus to protect PSLF for borrowers. But you can also do this by filing an employment certification form. The number of forms submitted each year is recorded by the government, and with over 650,000 borrowers having already submitted an employment certification form, submitting yours will show the government just how many people are relying on the program.
These are just a few ways that filling out the Employment Certification Form will help you on your path to earning Public Service Loan Forgiveness. If you are applying this year for forgiveness, Equal Justice Works has webinars available to borrowers applying for forgiveness or wanting to know more about what will happen when they apply.
Equal Justice Works provides support to public interest attorneys, and helps law students learn more about all aspects of managing their student debt. We have a debt relief newsletter, free student debt webinars, an informative website, and a free student debt e-book, Take Control of Your Future.
Brandon Hanson is the Student Debt Specialist at Equal Justice Works, where he helps students, lawyers, and law school professionals manage their student debt through education, outreach, and policy analysis. Brandon is a graduate of the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis and the University of Iowa, and has worked with political campaigns, non-profit organizations, and state government.