|New Report: Public Service Loan Forgiveness Critical to Access to Justice|
NLADA has just released a 2,000-person survey showing that dramatically reducing student loan forgiveness for lawyers working in the public interest would profoundly diminish access to justice for low-income people. The Obama Administration has proposed capping payments for those participating in the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, and some in Congress have recommended completely eliminating the program.
The survey -- "The Critical Role of Public Service Loan Forgiveness in Access to Counsel and Equal Justice" -- makes it clear that cutting PSLF would force many with substantial loans from law school to take jobs in private practice rather than in public service, and the people who would suffer most are community members with limited incomes who rely on these attorneys.
Currently, PSLF forgives remaining balances on federal student loans on which a borrower has paid 10 percent of his or her income while working full-time in public service for 10 years. It enables thousands of civil legal aid lawyers and public defenders -- whose starting salaries average below $50,000, or less than half the typical salary for entry-level lawyers at large firms and corporations -- to serve their communities and still manage their law school debts. Yet the Obama Administration recently recommended a cap of $57,000 per student in this program, far less than the debts many lawyers currently have.
To understand the damage the Administration’s proposal might cause, NLADA surveyed thousands of lawyers. Key findings of included:
Personal stories showed the costs of capping the repayment amount: