Professional Development

Head Start Employees: Reduce Your Monthly Student Loan Payment

This guide provides information about two federal programs that could help make student loans easier to pay back: Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) and Income-driven Repayment (IDR). Many full-time Head Start employees can use this information to apply for a reduction to their monthly student loan payments and begin down the path to loan forgiveness.

To learn more about these programs, watch Public Service Loan Forgiveness for the ECE Workforce. This webinar covers information about the limited PSLF waiver opportunity, ending Oct. 31, 2022.

Your student loan servicer is the best contact for specific information regarding your federal student loans.

Public Services Loan Forgiveness

The PSLF Program program guarantees that workers in social service and nonprofit fields will be forgiven for the rest of their debt after 10 years of payments (120 monthly payments). This program applies to many Head Start employees — not just teachers! — if they work for a qualifying employer.

The PSLF program provides relief for those working in public service settings, including schools, nonprofit organizations, and federal, state, local, or tribal government agencies. Many Head Start and Early Head Start programs are administered by one of these qualifying organizations or agencies. Early childhood educators who are self-employed or work at for-profit businesses do not qualify at this time.

Important Limited PSLF Waiver Opportunity
On Oct. 6, 2021, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced a temporary period during which borrowers may receive credit for payments that previously did not qualify for PSLF or TEPSLF. Most of the PSLF qualifying payment rules have been suspended through Oct. 31, 2022. Under this temporary waiver, you may get credit for payments made on loans that would not normally qualify for PSLF. These payments will count even if you didn’t pay the full amount or pay on time. However, only payments made after Oct. 1, 2007, can count as qualifying payments.

PSLF Qualifications

Typically, to qualify for the PSLF program, you must:

  • Be employed by a U.S. federal, state, local, or tribal government, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, or a nonprofit organization that provides a qualifying service (e.g., early childhood education or public health)
  • Work full-time for a qualifying organization
  • Have Direct Loans, or consolidate other federal loans into a Direct Loan
  • Repay your loans under an IDR plan
  • Make 120 qualifying payments

For a limited time under the 2022 PSLF waiver:

  • You may receive credit for past periods of repayment that would otherwise not qualify for PSLF.
  • If you have FFEL, Perkins, or other federal student loans, you’ll need to consolidate your loans into a Direct Consolidation Loan to qualify for PSLF in general and under the waiver. Log into Aid Summary to find out how many and what types of loans you have. Before consolidating, check to see if you work for a qualifying employer.
  • Past periods of repayment will now count regardless of whether you actually made a payment, made that payment on time, for the full amount due, or under a qualifying repayment plan. Periods of deferment or forbearance and periods of default do not qualify.

The limited waiver opportunity will be offered until Oct. 31, 2022. After this period, normal PSLF requirements will apply.

Income-driven Repayment

Another opportunity to reduce monthly federal student loan payments is to sign up for one of the IDR plans. These plans limit loan repayments for anyone found to have a high amount of debt compared to their income. Once approved, payments will generally be reduced about 10% of your income depending on your family size and other factors. If you earn below 150% of the poverty level for your family size, your payment may be as low as $0. After 20-25 years, the government will forgive all debt, including interest.

IDR Qualifications

Anyone found to have a high amount of student debt compared to their yearly income can qualify. There is no fee to complete an IDR plan request and it takes about 10 minutes. Eligible loan types vary based on the type of IDR plan.

Use this online loan simulator to find out if you qualify for IDR, calculate payments, and choose a loan payment option that best meets your needs. Use it to decide whether to consolidate student loans and get an estimate of your monthly payments.