Posted Jun 23, 2009 11:59 am CDT
A new federal program meant to help all students manage their loan debt is set to go into effect July 1.
Why should lawyers care?
Because the College Cost Reduction & Access Act has a few provisions that can have long-term benefits for lawyers, especially those who are public-interest-law minded.
There are short-term benefits too. The National Law Journal, in a lengthy article detailing the act’s provisions, notes that the program could make it easier for all attorneys who have high debt loads but relatively low incomes.
On the public interest side, loan forgiveness works like this: After making loan payments for 10 years on government-backed loans, the government will forgive the loan balance for qualifying borrowers.
Then there’s income-based repayment, in which monthly loan payments are capped at an amount relative to the borrower’s income. After 25 years, the federal government will forgive any remaining loan debt, the NLJ notes.
The income-based option wouldn’t likely work for those landing $100,000-plus jobs out of law school. But those who are in the $60,000 pay range, but have more than $100,000 in debt, may be a good fit for the option.
At this point, the downsides are that the program is new and underadvertised. Plus, forms aren’t yet available at the Department of Education.
“The program is complicated enough that it is difficult for students to understand on their own,” Heather Jarvis, a senior program manager at Equal Justice Works, told the NLJ. “As of right now, hardly anyone has a clue about this legislation, and in my mind it’s the biggest thing to hit public service in a decade.”