5 Mistakes Costing You Student Loan Forgiveness and How to Fix Them Now

Student loan debt is a huge problem in the United States. Over 40 million Americans owe more than $1.5 trillion in student loan debt. Student loan forgiveness programs like Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) and income-driven repayment (IDR) plans can help relieve some of this debt burden. However, many borrowers make simple mistakes that cost them the opportunity for loan forgiveness. In this blog post, we will discuss the top 5 mistakes that prevent borrowers from getting student loan forgiveness and provide tips on avoiding or fixing them. Taking the right steps can help you qualify for forgiveness and save thousands of dollars.

Mistake #1: Not Enrolling in the Right Repayment Plan

One of the most common mistakes borrowers make is failing to enroll in the correct student loan repayment plan. To qualify for PSLF, you must be on an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan such as Income-Based Repayment (IBR), Pay As You Earn (PAYE), or Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE). Under IDR plans, your monthly payment is capped at a percentage of your discretionary income, and any remaining balance is forgiven after 20-25 years of payments.

          Additionally, borrowers seeking Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) must be enrolled in an IDR plan. PSLF provides forgiveness after 120 qualifying payments made while working full-time for an eligible employer like the government or a nonprofit. If you are not on an IDR plan, your payments will not count toward the required 120 for PSLF.

To fix this mistake, contact your student loan servicer to enroll in an IDR plan as soon as possible. You can switch plans at any time. When transitioning to an IDR plan, submit your income documentation promptly so your new payment can be calculated correctly.

Mistake #2: Working for an Ineligible Employer

To receive PSLF, you must be employed full-time by an eligible public service employer when making qualifying loan payments. Eligible employers include government organizations (federal, state, local), 501(c)(3) nonprofits, AmeriCorps, and Peace Corps. If your employer does not meet the PSLF criteria, your employment will not count toward forgiveness.

Unfortunately, many borrowers work for ineligible employers without realizing it. To qualify for PSLF, you must be employed at a qualifying public service organization. If your employer does not alter, you will need to switch jobs. Consider searching for open positions at government agencies, schools, hospitals, and nonprofit groups.

When evaluating employers, do your due diligence to ensure they meet the criteria before accepting a position. Confirm your employer’s eligibility with the PSLF Help Tool before committing.

Mistake #3: Missing Recertification Deadlines for IDR Plans

To keep progressing toward forgiveness under an IDR plan, you must recertify your income and family size each year. This process determines your updated monthly payment amount. If you miss the annual recertification deadline, your monthly payments could increase significantly, delaying your timeline for forgiveness.

Here’s how to avoid missing recertification:

  • Mark your annual deadline on your calendar so you remember to recertify.
  • Submit your new income documentation 1-2 months before the deadline to avoid processing delays.
  • If you miss the deadline, recertify as soon as possible to minimize payment increases.
  • Set up autopay so your new monthly amount is automatically deducted.

Staying on top of recertification is crucial for keeping your IDR payment affordable and continuing on the path to forgiveness.

Also Read – Why Student Loan Debt Should Be Forgiven ?

Mistake #4: Making Late or Missing Loan Payments

To qualify for PSLF, you must make 120 on-time monthly payments. Each payment must be made in full within 15 days of its due date. If you make a late payment or skip one entirely, it will not count towards the 120 payments required for forgiveness.

Borrowers often lose progress because they struggle to afford a monthly payment and miss it or pay late. To ensure every payment counts, here are some tips:

  • Enroll in autopay through your servicer so payments are automatically deducted.
  • Apply for deferment or forbearance if you cannot afford payments for a period.
  • Communicate with your servicer if you anticipate difficulties – they may grant extensions.
  • Consider loan consolidation options that result in more affordable payments.

Do not let installment problems prevent you from making 120 on-time payments. Contact your servicer immediately if you struggle to keep up with your monthly bill. Protect your progress by handling issues before they cause missed payments.

Mistake #5: Not Completing the PSLF Application

Many borrowers make it through their 120 qualifying payments only to miss out on loan cancellation because they neglected to submit the PSLF application. You must complete and submit this form to receive student loan forgiveness under the program.

Follow these steps to avoid missing this crucial requirement:

  • Review PSLF eligibility criteria in your early payments to confirm you qualify.
  • Submit your PSLF application annually or when you change employers to track your progress.
  • Complete the application as soon as you make your 120th and final payment.
  • Follow up frequently to ensure the application was processed correctly.

Never assume the forgiveness will happen automatically after 120 payments. You must formally apply to receive cancellation under PSLF. Keep your application up to date annually and submit it promptly after hitting 120 payments.

Also Read – The Pros and Cons of Student Loan Forgiveness


Avoiding common mistakes is essential to stay on track for student loan forgiveness. Carefully review the eligibility criteria for PSLF and IDR plans. Enroll in the correct repayment plan, work for a qualifying employer, recertify income on time, make all payments in full and on time, and submit the PSLF application after 120 payments. Put reminders on your calendar for key deadlines. Seek help from your servicer or a financial advisor if you have any issues. Address problems immediately to protect your progress. With focus and diligence, you can avoid mistakes, meet forgiveness requirements, and free yourself from student loan debt.

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