Initially, it might seem really hard to find employers eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF).
Many student loan borrowers have a hard time determining if their current employer is eligible for PSLF. Evaluating potential places of employment adds to the level of difficulty.
Fortunately, there are many tools available to help borrowers find an employer who counts towards PSLF.
Finding Government Jobs – The Classic PSLF Option
Getting a government job is an obvious path towards Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Competition for government work is fierce, despite lower pay compared to the private sector.
Sadly, there isn’t a single database that has all government job listings. Borrowers looking for government employers will have to check several different databases.
USAJobs.gov – If you are looking for a job with the federal government, USAJobs.gov is the ideal place to start a search. Most, but not all, federal agencies post job listings on this site.
State and Local Government Websites – Some governments do a great job advertising openings to reach a wide number of candidates. Others list positions on a single government website. The good news for job hunters is that the harder you have to work to find a job listing, the less competition you are likely to find. Find and bookmark the jobs page for your state and local governments.
Agency Specific Websites – If there is a specific government agency that you wish to work for, be sure to check out their website. Some government entities will only paste job listings to their website. For example, your local library may have its own job listings and not post positions to the local government website. The job hunters that bookmark and frequently check pages that might be of interest will have an edge.
Even though the pay is sometimes low, government jobs are still very competitive. The advantages go beyond Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Government jobs are usually considered to be stable and often include excellent benefits programs.
Fortunately, government jobs are not the only path to PSLF.
Non-Profit Employers – 501(c)(3)s
The next big option for PSLF employment is a nonprofit.
Some non-profit organizations realize that PSLF eligibility is a big selling point and prominently mention PSLF in job postings. Others don’t mention it at all.
Searching job boards like LinkedIn or Indeed using the term nonprofit is an excellent way to track down potential employers. Additionally, seeking out specific nonprofits and watching their job opportunities pages can also be helpful.
Like government jobs, there is no single page that provides a comprehensive list of all openings. The more digging you do and the more creative you get with your search, the better luck you will have.
The tricky part about working at a nonprofit is that not all nonprofits are eligible for PSLF. If the nonprofit is classified as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, they are eligible. Other nonprofits may also qualify. However, nonprofits that are partisan political organizations or labor unions will not be eligible for PSLF.
Jobs to Avoid – The Confusing Potential Employers
Contractors affiliated with the government or a non-profit often confuse borrowers. Certain jobs might look like government or non-profit work but not count towards PSLF.
For example, if you work as a custodian for a non-profit hospital, you are probably eligible. However, if you work as a custodian at a non-profit hospital, but a cleaning services company actually employs you, you are probably not eligible.
Key Takeaway: What you do or where you work does not matter for PSLF eligibility. The organization that directly employs you is the big question.
Verifying Employer Eligibility As Soon As Possible
Employer promises about eligibility are a good start. However, more work is necessary.
The Department of Education won’t care what your employer told you about their eligibility. If the employer isn’t eligible, the time does not count towards PSLF. Thus, it is critical to verify eligibility as soon as you are able. Borrowers can take steps during the interview process to help ensure eligibility:
During Job Interviews – Many job interviews are set up by an HR representative or recruiter. These individuals often will know whether or not the job counts towards PSLF.
Looking up the Employer EIN (Employer Identification Number) – The Department of Education has a great resource called the PSLF Help Tool. Borrowers can investigate employer eligibility using the employer’s EIN. The SEC has a search engine that allows people to look up a company EIN, but this information is limited to publicly traded companies, so government agencies and non-profits likely won’t be included.
After Getting Hired – No matter how confident you are about your employer’s eligibility for PSLF, you should still submit an employer certification form (ECF) after your first month or two. The ECF is the only way to verify eligibility with certainty. Additionally, it also triggers an account review to ensure you are on an eligible repayment plan and have eligible loans.
Fixing PSLF eligibility issues for employers, repayment plans, or loans often requires starting from scratch on the ten-year clock. Making assumptions can easily lead to mistakes and delay loan forgiveness by months or even years.