Loan Repayment Assistance Program For Law Students
If you are choosing which law school to attend, you have multiple factors to consider. You may look at the classes offered, or clinics available, or the school’s location. But one of the biggest considerations in choosing where to attend is the cost of attendance. If you are thinking of taking out student loans, make sure to ask about the school’s Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP). Many schools have an LRAP that helps students pay off their student loans. LRAP is especially helpful if you are planning on pursuing a public interest career.
Before you pick a school, ask the financial aid office these 6 questions about the LRAP.
Loan Repayment Assistance Program For Law Students
1. How long is the LRAP program available after I graduate?
Most LRAPs follow the same template: every year, the participant applies for the program. At the start of the year, the school loans money to the participant to pay back their student loans. At the end of the year, the loan is forgiven if the participant meets certain criteria (usually focused on employment and salary). If the participant doesn’t qualify, they will need to repay the loan to the school.
LRAPs are generally meant to work together with the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. Check out our post on 8 Tips for Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Most LRAPs are only available for 10 years after graduation. For example, a participant who graduated in 2020 can make use of the LRAP until 2030.
2. What kind of employment qualifies?
Most LRAPs are limited to participants who work for particular kinds of employers (a rare few LRAPs are available for all participants). In most cases, LRAP is available only for participants who work full-time for government agencies or 501(c)(3) nonprofits in jobs that require a JD. Some LRAPs also allow for other kinds of nonprofits, or jobs in which a JD is not required but is related to the work. You should also check if the LRAP includes judicial clerkships and post-grad public interest fellowships funded by the school.
3. What is the salary cap?
Almost all LRAPs have a salary cap; participants who make above the cap do not qualify for assistance. Some LRAPs set a hard cutoff at the cap, while others have a graduated approach: as a participant’s salary goes up, the school provides less assistance.
4. How are spousal income, assets, and dependents considered?
If you are married or plan on getting married, you should ask how spousal income is considered. Some LRAPs don’t count spousal income at all. Others exclude spousal income if it is below the participant’s income, but include it if it’s above. Make sure you know the school’s policy! You don’t want to be faced with the difficult choice of either getting disqualified from LRAP because you got married, or delaying marriage for years to keep LRAP.
You also should ask how assets and dependents are considered. Some LRAPs will provide a deduction to your salary for dependents, which means you could earn a higher salary before meeting the salary cap and exiting LRAP.
5. Which repayment plans qualify?
Most LRAPs require you to be on a specific loan repayment plan, most often Income-Based Repayment (IBR). Some LRAPs also allow participants to enroll in other repayment plans, such as Pay As You Earn (PAYE) or Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE). Your monthly payments will vary depending on which repayment plan you are on. Some students may like the flexibility of switching to a different repayment plan and still qualifying for LRAP.
6. Which loans qualify?
Some LRAPs will only help pay for federal law school loans, while others will help with private law school loans or loans from undergrad or other graduate programs. Some LRAPs will also help with loans taken out to help pay for bar exam prep.
When applying to and choosing schools, cost is a big consideration. Ideally, you will cover as much of the cost as you can through scholarships (make sure to read our 8 essential law school scholarship tips). But make sure to also look at each school’s LRAP, particularly if you are interested in pursuing a public interest career.
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