by Estelle H. Rogers, a recently retired public interest lawyer.
There is a little known federal program, Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), which entirely forgives the indebtedness of a lawyer who elects to work in public service, rather than at a law firm or in-house at a corporation. Among public interest lawyers, however, it is a very well known program. It’s the only way many of these dedicated young lawyers can follow their hearts instead of their wallets when they embark upon a job search. The PSLF program, nevertheless, is under threat, facing severe cuts or elimination.
Under PSLF, persons making 120 monthly payments on their student loans while employed full time in qualified public service jobs (ranging from government organizations at any level to nonprofits to AmeriCorps) are eligible to have their remaining balance forgiven at the end of the 10 years. (Under the federal income-driven loan repayment program, low-earning graduates would ordinarily take twice that long to pay off student loans.)
The president proposed drastic cuts to PSLF in his budget message early this year, and the House Budget Committee recommended elimination of the program altogether. When Congress turns to reauthorization of the Higher Education Act this fall, PSLF is likely to be on the chopping block, though it has not been targeted by any of the bills introduced so far.