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Law school’s ‘Debt Wizard’ breaks down loan repayment by cities and salaries


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Photo of Rachel Zahorsky
by Marc Hauser.

As the demands for more transparency from law schools grow louder, one school has built an online tool for would-be lawyers to calculate various potential repayment options of the hefty loans many students take on.

The University of Michigan Law School’s Debt Wizard has prospective and current students and newbie lawyers to input their expected occupation, debt load and one of a dozen U.S. cities then calculates what monthly payments they can expect to make under four different repayment plans.

“A number of people have raised the question of whether law school in general is as financially rewarding a prospect as it once was,” Dean Evan Caminker told the ABA Journal. “We’re trying to be as transparent as possible, and this was the next logical step.”

The geographic cost-of-living component is especially important at Michigan, where many graduates move across the country to practice, said Sarah Zearfoss, senior assistant dean for admissions, financial aid, and career planning. Added to mix are the complexities of multiple repayment programs, which are also delineated by the calculator. Results include the percentage of salary likely to go to housing and loan payments and what income might be left over for all other expenses.

While the Debt Wizard doesn’t predict the likelihood of obtaining any given job, Caminker and Zearfoss say they hope the tool will aid users to better determine realistic expectations of what their post-law school budgets may look like.

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