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The Making of a Lawyer: The Reality of Student Loans

August 27, 2011

I hope you’re all attempting to stay dry in Hurricane Irene. The weather this summer is just unprecedented (and I’m a Philly native having lived here for the last 27 years).

The first week of classes have come and gone, and I can honestly say that I am really looking forward to my classes this semester (after dropping Professional Responsibility). The material I’ll be learning is really interesting to me, and I also like my professors (so far). However, my tuition bill nearly jumped 18% this year after the law school switched from a flat rate tuition billing plan to a credit-by-credit tuition billing plan. Although I am registered and paying for 15 credits, I am only receiving a grade for 10 credits. Why? The Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project seminar is Credit/No Credit class. Also, I am auditing my Trust & Estates class due to personal reasons. Hence, I am left with Business Organizations, Federal Income Tax, and Private Equity/Venture Capital Law.

So the other day, I paid a visit to the Financial Aid coordinator to figure out my options. We eventually figured out a workable plan, but the whole situation got me thinking about student loans and a recent resolution that was passed by the ABA House of Delegates during the ABA Annual Meeting. 

Resolution 111A seeks to start the process of student loan reform. The  ABA has agreed to lobby Congress to enact laws that require all federal student loans to allow income based repayment terms, multiple opportunities for consolidation and any other type of loan repayment assistance that would minimize the heavy student loan debt load for students, including but not limited to, creating a loan forgiveness program for public service lawyers similar to those available to healthcare professionals through the Higher Education Opportunities Act (P.L. 110-215). Furthermore, the ABA will lobby Congress to raise or eliminate income levels associated with the federal income deduction for all interest paid on student loans thereby providing additional tax benefits to students with student loans. (Sections taken from report presented to Law Student Division Assembly).

However, shortly afterwards, under the debt ceiling deal signed into law earlier this month, government-subsidized loans for graduate and professional students across the nation will be eliminated in July 2012. Those students will begin paying interest on their loans while still in school, or let it accumulate. In return, these millions of dollars will be made available to continue to fund federal Pell Grants to undergraduate students. I guess the thought is that while a bachelor’s degree is necessary in order to have a viable career, a graduate degree is not? I would beg to differ please.

In today’s increasingly global economy, American students are no longer able to be competitive against the rest of the world with merely a bachelor’s degree. Increasingly, graduate/professional degrees are being required or highly encouraged in many job descriptions. If we want to stay ahead of the curve, we need to encourage our students and provide opportunities to pursue higher degree programs.

How does this affect me? Luckily, I’m fortunate that I haven’t had to take out an exorbitant amount of loans due to the law school’s generosity through a partial scholarship. However, in two years, I will be trying to figure out how to repay this debt without compromising my employment options. Regardless, I am optimistic that all the pieces will fall into place by that time. After all, lawyers are problem-solvers, right?

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