-- Radhika Singh Miller, Equal Justice Works
As I indicated in my earlier post, those pursuing public interest law careers should weigh their law school options carefully, considering such factors as experience and training; professional guidance; and financial assistance. When it comes to finances, prospective law students shouldn’t merely investigate scholarship, grant and loan options—they should also explore post-law-school debt relief.
The three major types of educational debt relief available to public interest lawyers are:
•Income-Based Repayment (IBR), which lowers monthly loan payments based on the borrower’s income.
•Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), which allows forgiveness on Federal Direct loans after 120 qualifying payments while working full-time in qualifying public service employment.
•Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAPs), which provide funds to help make payments on educational loans.
Income-Based Repayment and Public Service Loan Forgiveness were created by the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 and can provide significant relief to those entering public service. To benefit, you must start taking the right steps now. Avoid borrowing private loans because IBR and PSLF are only available for federal loans. The Grad PLUS loan allows many law students to fund their legal educations solely through a combination of federal loans, which are eligible for IBR and PSLF.
Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAPs) are available from a variety of sources. In addition to your school’s LRAP, you may be eligible for assistance from your employer, state government, or the federal government. For example, the Legal Services Corporation provides loan repayment assistance, and the John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program provides assistance for state and federal public defenders and state prosecutors.
Using an LRAP in conjunction with IBR and PSLF can provide tremendous relief. If you have eligible federal loans, you may be able to qualify for low monthly payments under Income-Based Repayment, use LRAP funds to help you make these lowered monthly payments while working in a qualifying public service position, and qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness after making 120 qualifying monthly payments!
Looking for more information? You can learn more about IBR, PSLF and LRAPs by visiting the Equal Justice Works website and by registering to attend Equal Justice Works Educational Debt Relief Webinars. You can also learn more about school’s public interest offerings, grants and scholarships in The Equal Justice Works Guide to Law Schools.
Radhika Singh Miller is a program manager at Equal Justice Works focusing on educational debt relief initiatives. An expert on educational debt relief, Miller served on the Student Loans Team in the Negotiated Rulemaking for the College Cost Reduction and Access Act (CCRAA) in 2008 and has extensive knowledge of this landmark legislation. She conducts educational webinars and presentations; advises schools and organizations; and advocates for legislation and policy. Prior to joining Equal Justice Works, Miller was a staff attorney at the Partnership for Civil Justice in Washington. She received her J.D. from Loyola Law School Los Angeles.
Equal Justice Works is the national leader in creating public interest opportunities for law students and lawyers. Collaborating with the nation’s leading law schools, law firms, corporate legal departments and nonprofit organizations, Equal Justice Works offers a continuum of opportunities that provide the training and skills that enable attorneys to provide effective representation to underserved communities and causes. In 2011, Equal Justice Works will celebrate 25 years of mobilizing the next generation of lawyers committed to public interest law. Equal Justice Works is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. For additional information about Equal Justice Works, please visit www.equaljusticeworks.org.