The University of Wisconsin Law School sponsors a Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP), which provides small grants to students who accept permanent public interest jobs after graduation. Since its inception in 2002, the LRAP has generally provided from between two to six months of loan repayment in the form of a lump sum payment upon the student’s acceptance of a “qualifying position.” (The size of the award may vary depending upon the applicant pool and the applicants' debt obligations.) “Qualifying position,” means a legal position at a nonprofit organization or government agency with a specified maximum annual salary.
To apply for a grant through LRAP, you do not need to have already accepted a qualifying position! However, to be eligible to receive the grant, you must apply for the grant prior to July 1 after you graduate, and you need to have accepted a qualifying position by June 1 of the year following your graduation.
Created and administered by bar associations, bar foundations, independent non-profit organizations and state education administrations, 17 states offer loan repayment assistance programs. You can find comprehensive state LRAP information on the ABA's website.
Federal Agency LRAPs
In an effort to ease the financial burdens facing new attorneys working in public interest positions, some public interest employers establish loan repayment assistance programs for their employees. A recent survey by the National Association of Law Placement to approximately 4,500 civil legal services, public defender, local prosecuting attorney, attorneys general and public interest employers finds that:
- 39 of 430 responding organizations offer an LRAP program to attorney employees.
- 28 of the 39 organizations reporting an LRAP program are civil legal services organizations—five are district or county attorney offices and six are “other” organizations.
- 194 attorneys received an employer LRAP award in the most recent fiscal year.
- The average amount awarded per attorney ranged from nothing, to a median of $2,400, to a high of 12,000.
- 30 federal agencies provided loan repayment assistance programs for employees.
- In fiscal year 2005, 4,409 federal workers received assistance with student loans.
- Federal employees can receive up to $10,000 per year in student loan repayments up to a total of $60,000.
Federal Student Loan Forgiveness: The College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007
In 2007, President Bush signed the College Cost Reduction and Access Act (CCRAA), which provides loan forgiveness for graduates who work in the public sector and make timely loan payments for 10 years. For more information on the CCRAA, please visit this page on Equal Justice Works' website.
Higher Education Reauthorization and College Opportunity Act of 2008
On August 14, 2008, President Bush signed H.R. 4137, now P.L. 110-315 – The Higher Education Reauthorization and College Opportunity Act of 2008. Although funds are authorized for each program, Congress will now have to make appropriations to fund these programs.
The Higher Education Reauthorization and College Opportunity Act of 2008 establishes four new loan forgiveness and repayment programs that benefit public interest lawyers. They are:
- The John R. Justice Prosecutors and Defenders Incentive Act
Providing $10,000 per year in exchange for a one time renewable three-year commitment for state and local prosecutors and public defenders.
- The Legal Assistance Loan Repayment Program
Providing $6,000 per year in renewable three year commitments to a maximum of $40,000 for civil legal assistance lawyers.
- Loan Forgiveness for Service in Areas of National Need
Providing no more than $2,000 per year for five years for Public Sector Employees, including public interest legal services (prosecution, public defense, or legal advocacy in low-income communities at a nonprofit organization).
- Perkins Loan Cancellation for Public Service
Providing partial loan cancellation for persons in specified public service jobs including federal public defenders.
Rules will be established by the federal agencies responsible for administering these programs, and you can check the Equal Justice Works website (click on Resources) for updates as this process moves forward. To access H.R. 4137, visit this page.