Lawyer’s Student Loan Repayment Program Hurting
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UPDATED: Dec 26, 2011
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For lawyers in Washington D.C., a program called the Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) has always served as an aid to help pay off student loan debt. But for the first time since its creation, LRAP is unable to pay off eligible lawyer’s monthly loan debt.
LRAP provides aid in the form of payment towards monthly student loan bills for lawyers who work to alleviate poverty in underprivileged areas. When LRAP began in 2007, the average amount of student loan debt their eligible applicant’s had was $92,000. Today, the average amount is $119,000.
“Law school has gotten more expensive and we’re seeing it,” said Katia Garret, executive director of the D.C. Bar Foundation, to the LA Times. “While that debt load has increased, the average salary of our applicants in each of those years was the same.”
LRAP acquires money by appealing for donations from law firms and corporate legal departments. That money is then turned around to help alleviate the ever-rising cost of law school to those lawyers who wish to serve the public and earn a wage that would make it hard to pay off their student loans.
The annual wages to qualify for LRAP cannot exceed $65,000, and the average rests $49,000.
That annual income is a surprising pay cut from what these lawyers could potentially make if they went with a private law firm. According to Garret, “You can get six figures as first-year associate at some big law firms,” reported the LA Times.
A few years ago, Lauren Onkeles-Klein, an attorney at the Children’s Law Center, received help from LRAP. “A lot of nonprofits can’t afford to pay competitive salaries,” Onkeles-Klein told the LA Times. “LRAP was a gamechanger for me to be able to stay here for so long, be able to do the work I love, and not have to look elsewhere to do work I don’t want to be doing because that work pays more.”