Borrowers working toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) should do all they can to ensure that they are on track for loan forgiveness. The best way to do that is to submit the Employment Certification Form (ECF) annually and at other strategic times.
To qualify for PSLF, borrowers must
- work for a government agency or for certain types of nonprofit organizations;
- work full time for that agency or organization;
- have Direct Loans (or consolidate1 other federal student loans to qualify);
- repay their loans on an income-driven repayment plan; and
- make 120 qualifying payments.
The Employment Certification Form
Borrowers working toward PSLF are not required to submit ECF forms, but will likely benefit from doing so.
The ECF is a simple, two-page form consisting of information about the borrower and employer, and requiring a signed certification from each.2 Once the form is complete, the borrower should keep a copy for their records and submit the form to the U.S. Department of Education Fedloan Servicing by mail, fax, or through Fedloan Servicing’s website.3
Susan Lund, U.W. 2011, is an attorney in the Milwaukee offices of Legal Action of Wisconsin, where her practice includes removing legal barriers to family-sustaining employment for low-income clients.
In one to three months, the borrower should receive a response letter from Fedloan Servicing with their qualifying payment details. The number of qualifying payments the borrower has made will be updated whenever a new ECF is submitted documenting a new period of qualifying employment.
When to Submit the ECF
Besides submitting the ECF form annually to keep track of qualifying payments, borrowers should also consider submitting the ECF after posting their first qualifying payment at a new employer and after completing their last day at a qualifying job.4 These practices can help ensure borrowers have the best information and documentation possible as they work toward PSLF.
While submitting an ECF may raise some administrative headaches, those are problems best dealt with as soon as possible, so no borrower is blindsided with negative information as they submit their final PSLF application.
All borrowers should also remember to diligently document and independently verify as much information from loan servicers as possible.
1 Borrowers who have already made qualifying payments will restart their payment clock (lose qualifying payments) if they consolidate loans, and should consider that information carefully when contemplating consolidation.
2 The additional four pages attached to the ECF form are instructions, definitions, and other information that is essential for borrowers working towards PSLF.
3 Only borrowers who already have an account through Fedloan servicing can use the file upload function through its website. Keep in mind that FedLoan Servicing is the only loan servicer for PSLF. Therefore, borrowers with a different loan servicer who submit an ECF will likely have their loan servicer switched to FedLoan Servicing.
4 Alternatively, if a borrower anticipates difficulty collecting the ECF from their former employer after leaving the job, they could consider collecting the form after posting their last qualifying payment while still at that job.