Law School Debt

  • August 24, 2015
    Guest Post

    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.

  • March 7, 2014

    by ACS Staff

    Following the Senate’s failure to invoke cloture on the nomination of Debo Adegbile to be Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice, Andrew Cohen takes to The Atlantic and says that Chief Justice John Roberts should discuss his previous representation of serial killer John Ferguson.  The Chief Justice “should explain why every criminal defendant deserves a lawyer…and why lawyers have professional obligations to advocate on behalf of even the most despised members of our society.”

    Eighteen years after California voters adopted Proposition 209, which, among other provisions, prohibits affirmative action in public education, University of California officials are struggling to enroll robust levels of diverse students. Erica E. Phillips at the Wall Street Journal has the story.

    At Above the Law, Elie Mystal discusses changes to the student loan forgiveness program outlined in the White House’s latest budget proposal.

  • May 2, 2011
    Practical Advice

    A New York Times report on law school scholarships reveals the real risk many law students may face in attending schools where their scholarships are tied to grade point average requirements.   

    As American law schools have “quietly gone on a giveaway binge in the last decade,” with more than one in four law students now receiving a scholarship, many students will inevitably lose those grants, because grading curves at some schools  make it mathematically impossible for all of those who receive scholarships to keep them, the article explains.

    At Golden Gate University School of Law, for example, more than 50 percent of students are given merit scholarships, but the curve typically allows only a third of students to achieve the 3.0 GPA required to keep the scholarships. 

     “By the middle of second semester of that first year, everyone saw the system for what it was,” said Alexandra Leumer, a law student at Golden Gate University School of Law who lost her scholarship. “We realized that statistically, because of the curve, there was no way for many of us to keep our scholarships. But at that point, you’re a year in. They’ve got you. You feel stuck.”

    University of St. Thomas School of Law Professor Jerry Organ, one of the few scholars to study law school scholarships, attributed this trend of offering too many scholarships to the U.S. News & World Report rankings, which place significant weight in grading schools on students’ undergraduate grade point averages, LSAT scores and bar exam passage rates.

    Lower-ranked schools can attract students who have higher GPAs and LSAT scores by offering large numbers of scholarships, and thus boost their rank. And the rankings have a much greater influence on law school selection decisions because law schools, unlike undergraduate institutions, “share far more similarities than they do differences,” the article explains.

    Are law schools deceiving students to boost their rankings?

    One current student at Golden Gate who declined to be identified had this answer:

    I had a friend once who told me that hunting is a sport. I said, ‘Hunting is not a sport.’ He said: ‘Sure it’s a sport. It’s just that the animals don’t know they’re in a game.’ That’s what it feels like to be a law student these days. You have no idea you’re in a game.

    Read the full article here. And read reporter David Segal's replies to reader comments here.

  • October 8, 2009
    Practical Advice
    A boatload of debt awaits the average 2008 law school graduate, the Daily Business Review reports, citing a nonprofit group, Equal Justice Works.

    Beth Kobliner, author of Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance in Your Twenties and Thirties, tells the Journal that it may be easy for graduating students to "feel overwhelmed, but the best thing you can do is to educate yourself about your options."

    The Journal's article, which appears at Career Center, provides information for the debt-ridden law school graduate, such as:

    Find out if you qualify for income-based repayment. William Hoye, director of financial aid at Duke University Law School, said this new program for government-backed loans is one that every law grad should know about. The program offers especially attractive repayment terms for those who take public interest jobs.