A law degree can help you pursue several exciting careers such as lawyer, legal recruiter, arbitrator, journalist, politician and professor. Unfortunately, law school is expensive, and students can rack up hefty student loan debt. Fortunately, there are student loan forgiveness programs available for eligible law school graduates. Read on to learn about several programs that can possibly offer you some debt relief.
Keep in mind that federal loans are eligible for loan forgiveness, but private loans are not. Federal loans include subsidized and unsubsidized Federal Stafford loans, Federal Direct Consolidation loans, Federal Perkins loans (only when part of a Federal Direct Consolidation loan), and Federal PLUS loans. There are income-based payment plans for your federal and private loans that we will discuss at the end of this article.
Read on to learn about loan forgiveness programs for law school graduates:
John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program (JRJ SLRP)
JRJ SLRP provides loan repayment for state and federal public defenders and state prosecutors who commit to at least three years of work in this area. After three years, an attorney can commit to another three years. The benefits are $10,000 maximum per year and cannot exceed $60,000 overall. Attorneys with the greatest financial need are given priority.
This program is run by the states. You can use this guide to determine which of your state agencies you need to contact in order to apply for these funds.
Department of Justice Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program (ASLRP)
Attorneys who work for the Department of Justice may be eligible for the ASLRP, which gives up to $6,000 per year, with a maximum amount of $60,000. In order to qualify, lawyers must commit to three years of service with the Department of Justice. Not only are law school loans eligible for this program, but also Nursing Student Loans, Health Profession Student Loans, and Health Education Assistance Loans. Funds are paid directly to the loan institution, not to you directly. This is a highly competitive program and, even if you are accepted, your eligibility will be reexamined each year.
The application process opens up on March 1 each year. For application information, visit https://www.justice.gov/oarm/attorney-student-loan-repayment-program
Herbert S. Garten Loan Repayment Assistance Program
Through a lottery system, this program offers loan repayment rewards for attorneys who work for Legal Service Corporation and its grantees. LSC is a nonprofit that provides legal civil services to low-income Americans. A list of its grantees can be found here: https://www.lsc.gov/grants-grantee-resources/our-grantees
In order to be eligible, you must have at least $75,000 in outstanding debt. The reward amount varies depending on funding, but the Herbert S. Garten program gives $5,600 to approximately 70 eligible attorneys each year.
For application information, visit LCS site.
Public Service Loan Forgiveness
Under the PSLF program, your Direct Loans may be forgiven after you make 120 qualifying monthly payments toward your student loan debt while working full-time for a qualifying public service or nonprofit employer. Examples of these employers are the government, including the military, Americorps, the Peace Corps, a nonprofit, or a private public service organization. There is no cap to how much debt can be forgiven, but you only qualify for PSLF after you have made 10 years of repayments through an income-driven repayment plan.
Full-time work constitutes your employer’s definition of full-time work or 30 hours a week–whichever is greater. The best way to make sure you stay on track for PSLF is by submitting an Employer Certification Form every year and any time you switch employers. This will allow the people at Federal Student Aid to notify you about any conditions you may need to adjust in order to fulfill the requirements.
State-Specific Loan Repayment Programs (LARPs) for Lawyers
Your state may offer loan repayment programs for lawyers. Almost all of them require that you work in public interest law. Visit the American Bar Association website to see if a program exists in your state:
Law-School Specific Loan Repayment Programs
Certain law schools may offer loan repayment programs for lawyers. Many law schools have come up with Loan Repayment Assistance Programs for attorneys who work in the public sector. The often have salary requirements, such as earning $75,000 or less per year. Check a list of law schools with LRAPs.
Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps Loan Repayment Program
Lawyers who join the U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG) program could receive up to $65,000 in loan repayments. JAG officers handle all legal matters within the United States military. After your first year of service as a JAG officer, you will receive the payments over a three-year period.
Income-Based Repayment Programs
You can use income-based repayment (IBR) options for both private and federal loans. These are not loan forgiveness programs; they are repayment plans that base payments on your income. With IBR, maximum monthly payments are 10-15% of your income over 20-25 years. After 20-25 years, the remaining balance will be forgiven.
Revised Pay as You Earn (REPAYE) is an IBR that caps monthly payments at 10% of your income for 20 years. After 20 years, the remaining balance will be forgiven.
In an Income-Contingent Repayment Plan, monthly payments are capped at 20% of your discretionary income or what your payment would be on a fixed, 12-year payment plan—whichever is less. Balances are forgiven after 25 years if you make steady payments.
Law school is certainly expensive, but help does exist in the form of these repayment and forgiveness programs. Be sure to read each programs’ terms and eligibility requirements carefully, and note whether the rewards are taxable or accrue interest. You may discover a way to get debt relief while you pursue your dream career!