Law School pays education loans for do-good grads

A new program at the University’s law school will encourage graduates to take on public service jobs.

By Rebecca Guterman

U of C law students aiming to help the greater good can now expect a big payoff. Graduates entering the public service sector will have the opportunity to receive a free law school education, thanks to a new Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP).

“This isn’t just an isolated loan forgiveness program. It’s tied into the creation of what we hope will be the best public interest program in the country,” Law School Dean Michael Schill said.

The program is one of the simplest and most generous offered in the country, according to Director of Financial Aid Karla Vargas.

Approximately 15 to 25 percent of the graduating class is expected to enroll in LRAP, which will be offered this spring, after accepting public service jobs upon graduation.

The current income-based repayment (IBR) program allows students in public service jobs a sliding scale to pay back their loans. For 10 years after graduation, a percentage of their income goes toward paying off loans. After this period, the debt is forgiven.

Chicago Law’s LRAP will pay for the students’ monthly IBR contributions, Schill explained. The result is a free law school education.

The program demonstrates the Law School’s commitment to encouraging students to take public service jobs that might not pay enough to pay off loans, according to Director of Public Interest Law and Policy Susan Curry. “We’re afraid that those students who had a clear desire to be a public service attorney are feeling this pressure to serve in the private sector instead for debt repayment,” she said.

In order to ease the choice between high-paying law firm jobs and lower-salary public interest jobs, the new LRAP has raised the salary cap to $80,000 and does not include spousal income in the students’ income calculations.

The LRAP also decided to expand the definition of legal public interest jobs—traditionally government positions, nonprofit attorneys, NGO jobs abroad, and the like—to include judicial clerkships, one of the most common jobs for law school graduates.

Schill said that the new additions to LRAP will be paid for by continuing contributions from former Law School Dean of Students and Director of Admission James Hormel (J.D. ’58) and by additional fundraising.