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Law Grad Tuition Debt Relief Ahead

Posted Sep 25, 2007 7:42 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Law grads struggling to pay big school debts while working in low-wage or public service job can take heart.

President Bush is expected to sign a bill that gives grads in public service jobs a chance to have their student loans forgiven and some others to opt for a low-repayment plan, the National Law Journal reports.

The College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 permits loan forgiveness after 10 years of service to government agencies or nonprofit organizations. The bill also helps low-income grads through a program that limits loan repayments to 15 percent of “discretionary income.”

The legislation may have arrived just in time. The average tuition debt for law grads of public and private schools in 2006 was $54,509 and $83,181 respectively, the Wall Street Journal explained in a recent cover story. And the average law school tuition has risen at nearly triple the rate of inflation in the past 20 years, topping $30,000 at private schools in 2006, according to a chart published by the newspaper.

Law professor Gregory Bowman of Mississippi College explains the impact of the income-based loan repayment program in his Law Career Blog.

“On the one hand, this means that payment schedules might be stretched out for a long, long time—just like if you were to make the minimum payment on existing credit card debt,” he writes. “On the other hand, at least it helps manage cash flow. And on the third hand (there's no limit to the number of hands when discussing legal issues), any remaining principal is forgiven after 25 years. That third hand provision is astounding, in a good way.”

The ABA has pushed for repayment relief, Georgetown law professor Philip Schrag writes in a summary of the legislation published on the association’s Web site.

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