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How do I know if my Employer is Eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness?

The Department of Education has several great resources for verifying if your employer is eligible for the PSLF program.

Written By: Michael P. Lux, Esq.

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This week we received an email from Dave, who is concerned his employer may not be eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). In our discussion today, we’ll cover the process for verifying PSLF employer eligibility and outline the necessary actions. If you have any questions for the Sherpa, don’t hesitate to reach out.

No matter who your employer is, the most reliable way to check for PSLF eligibility is by submitting an employer certification form. By doing this, borrowers can get a tally of how many eligible payments they’ve made out of the 120 required.

People like Dave, who are worried that their employer might not be eligible, may need to take a couple of extra steps to protect themselves going forward.

A New Shortcut – The Department of Education PSLF Help Tool

When this article was first written, people like Dave had to do a bunch of research into employer eligibility for PSLF.

The Department of Education recently made employment verification much easier. Using the PSLF Help Tool, borrowers can verify employer eligibility and generate the necessary form that needs to be completed.

According to the Department of Education, borrowers will need their FSA ID and a W-2 or Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) from their employer. The estimate that the process takes about 30 minutes.

Sherpa Note: I highly recommend that borrowers use the PSLF Help Tool to determine their eligibility for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. This tool is essential for confirming eligibility with a high degree of certainty, and it greatly simplifies the process of gathering and submitting all required documentation.

The remainder of this article will explore the specifics of employer eligibility in greater depth. However, for an immediate and clear understanding of your own eligibility status, the PSLF Help Tool is an invaluable resource.

Dave’s Email About PSLF Employer Eligibility

Hi Sherpa,

Fellow attorney here…and I’m flummoxed.

While my question might seem highly specialized, I still think it could be more broadly helpful.


I’m hoping to continue making qualifying payments for PSLF at my new job at the Tennessee Education Lottery Corporation (TEL). TEL was created by statute in Tennessee as “a body, politic and corporate, and a quasi-public instrumentality, and not a state agency or department, which shall be deemed to be acting in all respects for the benefit of the people of the state through the operation of a state lottery and in the performance of other essential public functions entrusted to it.” TCA 4-51-101(c).

What the hell is a “quasi-public instrumentality?” And is it a “governmental entity” for the sake of PSFL?

To attempt to answer my own questions, the only definition to the phrase “quasi-public instrumentality” in TN statute comes in TCA  4-39-101, which provides chapter definitions for Payment of Taxes by State Vendors and Subcontractors.  

“As used in this chapter:

(3)  “State governmental entity” means a state agency, department, board, or commission, or a public corporation or quasi-public instrumentality that performs essential public functions entrusted to it by the state; and”

Should I start celebrating that my work for the Lottery, a “quasi-public instrumentality” in TN, indeed qualifies for PSLF? Quasi-public instrumentality = state governmental entity under the law, right? Or am I being a first-year law student stretching on an exam?

I think there’s meat on the bone with questions about “quasi-public instrumentalities,” even if my question might be a little specific for the general audience that finds your site.

Thanks for taking the time,


Answering Dave’s Question

Dave has reached out with a highly technical legal query. Should he decide to file a lawsuit against the Department of Education, the laws he mentions could be pertinent. However, thankfully for both Dave and the average borrower, an intricate legal analysis is typically not required to address questions related to Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

Employers Eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)

Three employer types qualify as public service:

  • Government – Including Federal, State, and Local
  • Non-Profits – 501(c)(3) Organizations
  • A Private Not-For-Profit Organization – Must have one of the following public service activities as the primary purpose:
    • (1) emergency management,
    • (2) military service,
    • (3) public safety,
    • (4) law enforcement,
    • (5) public interest legal services,
    • (6) early childhood education,
    • (7) public service for individuals with disabilities and the elderly,
    • (8) public health,
    • (9) public education,
    • (10) public library services,
    • (11) school library services, or
    • (12) other school-based services.

How Do I Know If My Employer Qualifies?

If you’re unsure whether your employer qualifies for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, like Dave, it’s a good idea to fill out an employer certification form. This form can be found on the Department of Education’s website and needs to be completed by your employer. (Tip: the PSLF Help Tool on the website can assist you in filling out this form.) It’s wise for anyone aiming for PSLF to submit this form annually to keep their records current.

Once submitted, the form will be reviewed for verification that your employer qualifies as a public service employer.

The employer certification form doesn’t just help establish your employer’s eligibility; it also verifies that you’re on a qualifying repayment plan and that your loans qualify. When you successfully submit the form, MOHELA, the PSLF servicer, will send you a letter detailing the number of qualifying payments you’ve made towards the 120 needed for PSLF. Once you reach these 120 certified payments, your loans become eligible for discharge.

Does My Old Employer Count Towards Public Service Loan Forgiveness?

Because there isn’t a requirement to “enroll” in PSLF, old employment can be certified and count towards PSLF.

The challenge with prior employers is getting the necessary paperwork signed. For this reason, the sooner you can get your documents submitted, the better.

Strategy Limitations

The steps we have outlined so far constitute what we would consider to be the “best practice” for verifying employer eligibility. However, successful completion of these steps does not guarantee public service loan forgiveness eligibility. Recently, a lawsuit was initiated by four attorneys who received multiple employer certifications from their loan servicer. They were on track for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, but then the Department of Education changed its mind about their qualification under the 3rd definition of public service. Not only were they told their employer didn’t qualify, but the Department of Education retroactively rejected previously certified payments.

If you work for a 501(c)(3) organization or the government, this specific issue isn’t much of a concern. However, borrowers with some ambiguity about their eligibility should follow the case closely.

Don’t Ignore Other Forgiveness Opportunities: Public Service Loan Forgiveness is the most popular forgiveness program, but many other forms of federal forgiveness are available

We suggest that borrowers in this situation create a savings account or conservative investment account to set aside money for a potential PSLF issue. If, for some reason, these borrowers cannot qualify for PSLF, funds are available to pay off the debt aggressively. The saved money will likely earn less interest than the loans generate, so things won’t break even, but it is a good way for borrowers to protect themselves. If PSLF ends up working out, the money is a great head start for a downpayment on a house or retirement.

Bottom Line: Verifying Employer Eligibility for Public Service Loan Forgiveness is Easy

Figuring out whether or not you qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness should not require a law degree.

For the vast majority of borrowers, it is as simple as submitting a form.

About the Author

Student loan expert Michael Lux is a licensed attorney and the founder of The Student Loan Sherpa. He has helped borrowers navigate life with student debt since 2013.

Insight from Michael has been featured in US News & World Report, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and numerous other online and print publications.

Michael is available for speaking engagements and to respond to press inquiries.

89 thoughts on “How do I know if my Employer is Eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness?”

  1. Hello, how can a Texas state agency be qualified and the state employer has certified all government service.
    I have the qualified payments and employment years, but because one of the agencies is no longer operational and I was transferred to another state government agency with no break in service not be qualified and certified.

      • Yes, I have submitted an employer certification form signed by the current agency (HHSC). The Texas state agency was abolished in 2016 and employee transferred to other state agencies. The servicer is requesting a letter that the agency was abolished and I have to get all my W-2s from 2008-2013. Although, 2016 DARS W-2 has been certified.

      • That is strange.

        I haven’t seen this exact issue before, but I ran into something similar when I was certifying my self-employment income. They wanted a letter explaining everything, and this went back and forth for a while.

        I’d suggest asking who the letter needs to be signed by, and what it needs to contain to satisfy them. If you can accommodate, that might be the easiest route.

  2. I was reviewing the PSLF and TEPSLF Certification & Application form (Expiration 11/30/2023) and there appears to be a section which reads:
    “A contracted organization is a separately organized employer that through a written agreement with a qualifying employer performs services for the qualifying employer. The direct employees of the contracted organization are not direct employees of the qualifying employer. However, if the direct employees of the contracted organization are in positions or providing services that, under State law, cannot be filled or provided by a direct employee of a qualifying employer, the Authorized Official of the qualifying employer can certify their employment as if those employees were direct employees of the qualifying employer.”

    So, I know working as a contractor typically doesn’t qualify, but if I was working for a medical staffing agency and was working in facilities that were not-for-profit and/or providing public health services because they could not find a direct employee to fill their need, would that time qualify under the above definition?

    • Great question Trevor, and nice work reading the fine print on the form.

      The classic example of that exception would be a public defender appointed by the court. Many jurisdictions have statutes that prohibit these attorneys from being directly employed by the state or the court in order to avoid a conflict.

      As for your situation, if there was a state law that prohibited hiring someone directly into your position, you probably meet this exception.

      That all said, even if you don’t think you meet the exception, it doesn’t hurt to turn in a PSLF form to find out for certain.

  3. What if you work for a qualifying PSLF company and have already been qualified but you want to start your own for for-profit business while still working for the qualifying employer.

    Are we allowed to have one job that qualifies and one business that is ours?

    Are you allowed to work a part-time job for a non-qualifying employer as long as you maintain full-time employment for the PSLF Company?

  4. Just to verify that I am not eligible for the 10 yr loan forgiveness:

    – I served in the military before 2007 (92-98)
    – I have not and currently not working for the government, non profit or for private non profit organization
    – the only way to get the loan forgiveness is to rush out and get a job in one of these organizations and work 10 years with them?

  5. Good morning Mr. Lux,

    My wife is currently at the maximum number of eligible payments, but they are only counting 100 of them. My wife is an RN and works for a 501(c)(4) that receives funding from the State of Indiana and basically administers health insurance coverage for low income individuals (Medicaid and HIP). My wife performs case management for the organization, reviewing specific situations from a medical perspective. The definition mentions, “…..doctors, nurses, nurses in a clinical setting, …….”. The servicer is taking the stance that since she isn’t in a clinical setting, the employer doesn’t qualify. My question to them and others is (and no one can answer me), why are nurses mentioned twice in the definition if only a clinical setting applies?

    Thank you,
    Chris Verstijnen

    • Hi Chris,

      This is a tricky one, but I think I can shed some light on this issue.

      However, first I have a question. How is it that they are counting 100 of your wife’s eligible payments? Has she changed employers? Either an employer is eligible or they are not. Partial eligibility doesn’t make sense to me.

      As for your question, the important thing to keep in mind is that they are not looking at your wife’s title, job description, or educational background. The employer must meet the eligibility requirements for the time to count. If you look at the definition of public health at the bottom of page three of the PSLF application, it specifies the employers that qualify as public health. [Note for others: this step is only necessary because she is at a 501(c)(4) instead of a 501(c)(3)]

      Based on the information shared in your comment, it sounds like your wife’s employer is truly a borderline case. Because she has already been denied, I’d encouarge her to submit a request for reconsideration. I’d also encourage her to work with her employer on this issue. When a workplace is PSLF eligible, it is a huge recruiting tool for that employer, so they should be highly motivated to make sure she qualifies and they might be best situated to make the argument that they meet the public service eligiblity.

      • Michael,

        Thank you for responding. To answer your question, yes, she was at two different employers. The one that she was at when she made the other 20 payments is no longer her employer either. I did submit some sort of “reconsideration” paperwork last year to Mohela (her new servicer) to see if things would change, but it seems as if things are at a standstill until the Federal loan payments start back up again.


      • Chris,

        I’m glad to hear that she is currently employed with the employer that is definitely eligible. It sounds like in the worst case scenario, she stays at her current job for 20 months and gets the debt forgiven.

        I’d encourage you to check out the one-time IDR count adjustment that is scheduled to happen in early 2024. She might get credit for some additional payments as part of this process.

      • That’s the thing, she is NOT at the eligible employer anymore. That was the first employer where she made 100 payments. The second one is where the confusion is. And now she is at a third that doesn’t qualify.

  6. So I am confused here, because I work for Tennessee Education Lottery myself. Does the TEL qualify for public service loan forgiveness?

    Any help is appreciated, also. I worked for a contractor for TEL too. Please help.


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