Financial Aid Advice

Gap Years and Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Posted by Paul Garrard, M.B.A. on May 26, 2022

No doubt you’ve heard about the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program where the federal government forgives your student loan debt after you work in the nonprofit sector for 10 years. One of the questions we often get is whether payments made during gap years prior to dental school can help a borrower qualify for PSLF. 

The answer is yes!

However, take a look at the eligibility requirements for PSLF. You must: 

  1. Make 120 timely payments with an eligible repayment plan. (For example, a repayment plan tied to your income.)
  2. These payments must be made on federal direct loans. (Only loans the government makes are eligible for PSLF.)
  3. And while you are making these payments on the federal direct loans, you must be working full time for an eligible nonprofit organization.

So, if you have federal direct loans from college and have worked (or are currently working) full time for a nonprofit organization and have been making payments on your student loans with a repayment plan like Pay As You Earn (PAYE), Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE), or even the Standard 10-year level plan, those payments count toward eligibility for PSLF on those loans from college. You will have to work full time in the nonprofit sector after dental school to complete the required number of years of payments, but the time during your gap year(s) should count!

But it gets even better! As you know from previous articles, the CARES Act includes a provision whereby borrowers who would otherwise be in repayment but whose payments are currently suspended due to the CARES Act and are working full time for a nonprofit can have the period of suspended payments count toward eligibility for PSLF.

As you enter your dental program for either a dental or dental hygiene degree, and if you are thinking about a career in the nonprofit sector, you may be interested in trying to qualify for the PSLF program.

For more information, be sure to talk with your Financial Aid Office about PSLF. You can also find more details about PSLF at under Money Matters and at

About Paul Garrard, M.B.A.:

Paul Gerrard

Paul S. Garrard, M.B.A.
Founder and President
PGPresents, LLC
Independent Student Loan Consulting
ADEA Senior Advisor for Student Financial Services

With more than 35 years of experience in higher education and student financial aid, Paul Garrard is one of the most well-known and in-demand educational debt management experts in the nation, especially in the health professions communities. Mr. Garrard currently serves as a consultant for the American Dental Education Association (ADEA) as their Senior Advisor for Student Financial Services.

He has extensive experience in the nonprofit and for-profit sectors of higher education. In 2008, he started his own consulting firm, PGPresents, LLC, designed to help promote responsible borrowing and responsible repayment.

His specialty is helping health professions graduates, including dental school graduates, manage their student loan portfolios by helping them develop repayment strategies that meet their career and financial goals. He also uses this expertise through ADEA to help inform incoming dental students about borrowing responsibly.

He is a nationally known speaker on financing a dental education and is a regular speaker at the ADEA GoDental Recruitment Event held prior to the ADEA Annual Session & Exhibition. 

He holds a Bachelor of Arts from Samford University and an M.B.A. from the University of Georgia. Mr. Garrard works out of his home in Shepherdstown, WV.