If you are pursuing Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) to eliminate your student loan debt, you have probably heard the phrase “qualifying payment.” Borrowers are required to make 120 qualifying payments, among other criteria, to receive student loan forgiveness. 

Since you need to make 120 qualifying monthly payments, it will take at least 10 years before you can qualify for PSLF. You can’t qualify sooner if you make additional monthly payments or payments higher than the amount that is due.

What are the Requirements for a Payment to be Qualifying?

A qualifying student loan payment consists of the following:

  • under a qualifying repayment plan
  • for the full amount due as shown on the monthly statement
  • within 15 days after the due date
  • while the borrower is employed full-time in a qualifying job by a qualifying employer

Which Repayment Plans Count as a Qualifying Repayment Plan?

You must be enrolled in one of the income-driven repayment plans (ICR, IBR, PAYE and REPAYE) or Standard Repayment to make a qualified payment.

Payments made under the Graduated, Extended and Alternative Repayment plans do not count as qualified payments. However, Graduated Repayment and Extended Repayment may qualify for Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness (TEPSLF) under certain conditions.

Can You Make a Qualifying Payment during a Deferment or Forbearance?

You can only make qualifying monthly payments during periods when you’re required to make a payment. So, you can’t make a qualifying payment while your loans are in a deferment, forbearance, under an in-school deferment or during the grace period.

If you want to make qualifying payments, but you are in a deferment or forbearance, you can contact your loan servicer to ask them to end the deferment or forbearance.

What Happens If You Lose Your Job?

The required 120 qualifying monthly payments don’t need to be consecutive. So, if you lose your job or temporarily have a job with a nonqualifying employer, you don’t lose credit for prior qualifying payments you made.