Loan Repayment/Forgiveness Programs

In general, there are 4 main kinds of loan repayment/forgiveness programs that together provide tens of millions of dollars in financial assistance to law school graduates each year: (1) Law School Loan Repayment Assistance Programs; (2) Federal Loan Repayment Assistance Programs; (3) State Loan Repayment Assistance Programs; and (4) Private Employer Repayment Assistance Programs. Many, but not all, of these programs exist to help law school graduates who choose public service careers to manage their debt loads. Others, like the federal Income-Based Repayment Program and Private-Employer Repayment Assistance do not require that a graduate work in the public service sector, although they can benefit those who do.

1Law School Loan Repayment Assistance Programs

Law School LRAPs provide financial aid to law students after they graduate and take qualifying, low-paying jobs, typically in public interest or government positions. As NYU's Assistant Dean for Admissions and Financial Aid, Kenneth Kleinrock, noted in an AdmissionsDean interview, an LRAP is “a scholarship at the back end. Any student who takes a qualifying job is eligible to be considered for LRAP benefits that, in some cases, can pay up to a student's full law school debt burden over a ten-year period. Currently, NYU has about 500 alumni participants in the [LRAP] program and spends close to $5 million annually to support our alumni in public interest careers.”

NYU Law is hardly alone with its LRAP. Indeed, LRAPs are by far the most popular kinds of loan forgiveness programs, with more than 100 law schools currently participating. Each law school creates its own LRAP eligibility, benefits, and repayment terms and conditions. Law school LRAPs vary by the kinds of employment that qualify, income caps, how income is calculated, whether a student's assets are considered as part of the calculation, whether you have to have a law license and/or practice law to qualify, how law schools fund their LRAPs, how long you must engage in public-interest law to qualify, etc. In general, law schools with larger endowments tend to provide more generous LRAP benefits to their law students, and LRAP programs often serve as strong recruiting tools for law schools trying to attract public-interest-minded law students.

2Federal Loan Repayment Assistance Programs

In 2007, Congress created 2 significant debt reduction/forgiveness programs: the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program and the Income-Based Repayment Program.

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program:

This program eliminates loans for law school graduates who have worked for 10 years in the public-service sector. This program applies only to Direct Loans (i.e., Federal Direct Stafford and PLUS Loans and Federal Direct Consolidation Loans) on which the borrower has already made 120 monthly payments (i.e., 10 years of payments).

For a great summary of this and other loan repayment assistance programs, visit the official Federal Student Aid Website, and read Georgetown Professor Phil Schrag's excellent article in the Hofstra Law Review (36 Hofstra L. Rev. 27 (2007)), Federal Student Loan Repayment Assistance for Public Interest Lawyers and Other Employees of Governments and Nonprofit Organizations.

The Income-Based Repayment Program:

This program caps the monthly payments law school graduates make when they have lower-income jobs (including public interest and/or government jobs). The capped monthly payments are designed to be affordable and are based on the borrower's annual income and family size; the borrower's total debt load does not affect the calculation. The IBR Program applies only to Direct Loans (i.e., Federal Direct Stafford and Grad PLUS Loans and Federal Direct Consolidation Loans).

Below is a chart that reflects the maximum monthly payments a borrower must make under the IBR Program:


So, for example, if you graduate from law school with Direct Loans, are married with 1 kid, and have an adjusted gross income of $70,000, your monthly Direct Loan payments cannot exceed $532 under the IBR Program. Thus, if your payments under a standard 10-year repayment plan exceed $532/month and you enter the IBR Program, your payments will be capped at $532.

For a great summary of this and other loan repayment assistance programs, visit the official Federal Student Aid Website, and read Georgetown Professor Phil Schrag's excellent article in the Hofstra Law Review (36 Hofstra L. Rev. 27 (2007)), Federal Student Loan Repayment Assistance for Public Interest Lawyers and Other Employees of Governments and Nonprofit Organizations.

Higher Education Reauthorization and College Opportunity Act of 2008 (HERCOA):

In 2008, Congress passed but did not fund (ah, that tricky Congress!) 4 loan forgiveness/repayment programs for public-interest attorneys. To date, they remain unfunded, although significant activity towards funding some/all these programs has occurred in 2009-10. These 4 programs are:

1The John R. Justice Prosecutors & Defenders Incentive Act: This program provides up to $10,000 annually for attorneys who commit to working a minimum of 3 years as state and local prosecutors, as well as federal, state, and local public defenders. Attorneys may receive up to $60,000 in loan repayments as part of this program. The John R. Justice Act was modeled on an existing law school repayment program for federal employees and federal prosecutors. To date, this program is unfunded.
2The Legal Assistance Loan Repayment Program: This program permits the US Department of Education to provide up to $2,000 annually for up to 5 years for attorneys serving in “areas of need.” To date, this program is also unfunded.
3The Loan Forgiveness for Service in Areas of National Need: Similar to the Legal Assistance Loan Repayment Program, this program permits the US government to provide up to $2,000 annually for up to 5 years for public- sector employees. To date, this program is also unfunded.
4The Perkins Loan Cancellation for Public Service: This program would provide for the partial cancellation of Perkins Loans for attorneys serving in certain public service jobs, including public defenders. To date, this program is also unfunded.

3State Loan Repayment Assistance Programs

Twenty-three State LRAPs also provide financial aid to public-interest lawyers. As with Law School LRAPs, the terms and conditions for eligibility, benefits, and repayment terms vary by state. State LRAPs are typically administered by state bar associations and foundations, state education agencies, and/or non-profit organizations. Below is the contact information for each State LRAP.


Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education
4201 N. 24th Street, Suite 210
Phoenix, AZ 85016
T: 602.340.7235  |  F: 602.271.4930

District of Columbia

District of Columbia Bar Foundation
1615 L Street, NW, Suite 850
Washington, DC 20036-5622
T: 202.467.3750  |  F: 202.467.3753


The Florida Bar Foundation
109 East Church Street
Orlando, FL 32801
T: 407.843.0045  |  F: 407.839.0287


Indiana Bar Foundation
230 East Ohio Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204
T: 317.269.2415  |  F: 317.269.2420


Iowa State Bar Public Service Project
521 East Locust, Suite 302
Des Moines, IA 50309
T: 515.244.8617  |  F: 515.244.8845


The Student Loan People
P. O. Box 24266
Louisville, KY 40224-0266
T: 502.696.7278


Louisiana Bar Foundation
909 Poydras St., Ste 1550
New Orleans, LA 70112
T: 504.561.1046  |  F: 504.566.1926


Maine Bar Foundation
40 Water Street, 1st Floor
Hallowell, ME 04347
T: 207.622.3477  |  F: 207.623.4140


Office of Student Financial Assistance
Maryland Higher Education Commission
State Scholarship Administration

839 Bestgate Road, Suite 400
Annapolis, MD 21401-1781
T: 410.260.4569


Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation
11 Beacon Street, Suite 820
Boston, MA 02108-3009
T: 617.367.1414  |  F: 617.367.8815


Loan Repayment Assistance Program of MN
600 Nicollet Mall, Suite 380
Minneapolis, MN 55402
T: 612.278.6315  |  F: 612.333.4927


Missouri Bar Foundation / Missouri Bar Association
P. O. Box 119
Jefferson City, MO 65102
T: 573.638.2240  |  F: 573.635.2811


Montana Justice Foundation
P. O. Box 6169
Missoula, MT 59807-9169
T: 406.523.3920  |  F: 406.728.7416

New Hampshire

New Hampshire Bar Foundation
112 Pleasant Street
Concord, NH 03301-2931
T: 603.224.6942  |  F: 603.224.2910

New Mexico

New Mexico Higher Education Department
1068 Cerrillos Road
Santa Fe, NM 87505-1650
T: 505.476.6549  |  F: 505.476.6511

New York

New York State Bar Association
One Elk Street
Albany, NY 12207
T: 518.487.5640  |  F: 518.487.5694

North Carolina

North Carolina Legal Education Assistance Fund
6070-J Six Forks Road
Raleigh, NC 27615
T: 919.845.6089  |  F: 919.848.9259


Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation
10 West Broad Street, Suite 950
Columbus, OH 43215
T: 614.728.5396  |  F: 614.728.3749


Oregon State Bar
16037 SW Upper Boones Ferry Road
P. O. Box 231935
Tigard, OR 97281-1935
T: 503.431.6355  |  F: 503.684.1366

South Carolina

South Carolina Bar Foundation
P. O. Box 608
Columbia, SC 29202-0608
T: 803.799.6653  |  F: 803.799.4118


Texas Lawyers Care/State Bar of Texas
Texas Access to Justice Commission

1414 Colorado, Suite 604
Austin, TX 78701
T: 512.477.8302  |  F: 512.477.8302


Vermont Bar Foundation
P. O. Box 1170
Montpelier, VT 05601-1170
T: 802.223.1400


Washington State Bar Association
1325 Fourth Avenue, Suite 600
Seattle, WA 98101-2539
T: 206.443.9722  |  F: 206.727.8319

4Private Employer Repayment Assistance Programs

Many companies (particularly larger ones) offer some form of tuition reimbursement benefit for their employees (and, occasionally, their employees' dependents). Be sure to contact the HR department of the company you work for (or, if you remain a dependent of your parents at the time you enter law school, have them check with their companies' HR departments) to determine if you qualify for any tuition reimbursement benefit program. Often, employers attach strings to tuition reimbursement benefits (either requiring you to continue working for the company after you complete your education for a certain period of time, or requiring you to demonstrate the relevance of the education to the business of the company), but sometimes they do not. In any event, tuition reimbursement benefits can be a terrific way to help finance your law school education.

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