Personal Finance

Frustrated by the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program? These tools can help

Key Points
  • Accurate, clear information about the public service loan forgiveness program can be hard to find. 
  • Here are some reliable resources. 
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Most people pursuing public service loan forgiveness discover at some point that they don't qualify, for one technical reason or another.

That may be because their loan type is ineligible or they're not in the right repayment plan.

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2007 and allows not-for-profit and government employees to have their federal student loans erased after 10 years of on-time payments.

Just 206 applicants for the debt relief have been approved, according to recent Education Department data. More than 40,000 have applied.

What's more, about 25 percent of American workers are in public service and could, in theory, be eligible. In practice, student loan servicers are delaying and denying borrowers access to the forgiveness program, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

As a result, you shouldn't rely just on your lender for information on the program, advocates say. Here are some other helpful and reliable resources.

A public service loan forgiveness checklist

Student loan expert Mark Kantrowitz has put together a one-page checklist for public service loan forgiveness.

"I created the checklist because public service loan forgiveness is too complicated, forcing borrowers to pay attention to too many details," Kantrowitz said.

His sheet breaks down all of the program's requirements and lists common errors and examples of qualifying employers (most jobs in law enforcement or public education, for example).

A new tool by the Education Department

The Education Department recently released a help tool for those seeking public service loan forgiveness.

The tool will assess whether you qualify and make it easier for you to fill out the employer certification form, which verifies that you're working for a qualifying employer.

Keep in mind the tool doesn't save your information between sessions, so have all of your paperwork handy when you begin. The Education Department says the process takes people around 10 minutes to complete.


Other help

Given that student loan servicers might not always provide borrowers the best information, it helps to review your options with a nonprofit such as The Institute of Student Loan Advisors, an organization that offers free advice and dispute resolution.

"To help us help the consumer, it's important they send us as much info as possible, including what kind of loans they have, what payment plan they are in, what kind of employer they work for and the status of their loans," said Betsy Mayotte, president of The Institute.

The National Foundation for Credit Counseling also certifies student loan counselors.

CNBC has interviewed some of the people who have successfully navigated the program and are now debt-free. You can read their tips here.