Friday, March 07, 2008

Does LRAP Need More Funding?

More than 40 Boalt Hall Student Groups have signed on to a letter encouraging the Dean to "take substantive and expeditious action in improving LRAP to keep pace with the rapidly increasing tuition."

I have copied the letter into the comments (rather than post here) due to its length.

Initial reactions:

1) If the school's going to represent to its public interest students that loans will not be a future problem, they should honor this promise.

2) I'm not in-the-know, but how does this dove tail with the Federal Government's new loan forgiveness program?

and 

3) Those who work at firms this summer lose their grants starting next year. 

To many, that's a $9,000 hit each year it would apply.  Yes, I know that $9,000 is less than the $30,000 they make while working for a firm.  

I assume this money is being re-distributed to those who work for public interest. Given that there are far more students who work for firms their 2L summers, that's a lot of extra money being dumped on a relatively small portion of the student body, thus reducing their debt burden before they even graduate. 

Again, I'm not in-the-know, but is there a problem here in the first place?

Note: These comments apply to the suggestion of raising the tuition limit of $90,000 - not on the proposal to expand to additional people who are currently not covered by LRAP (other than maybe to ask about how much the federal government plan would apply to these people as I stated above).

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10 Comments:

Blogger tj said...

March 10, 2008

Boalt Hall Student Groups
UC Berkeley, School of Law
University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720

Christopher Edley, Jr.
William H. Orrick, Jr., Professor of Law and Dean
UC Berkeley, School of Law
University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720

Re: Financial Support for Public Interest Funding at Boalt Hall

Dear Dean Edley:

We are Boalt Hall students writing to you because we are concerned about
the viability of public interest careers for Boalt Hall graduates.
According to a University of California, Berkeley media release from
October 19, 2006, you were a “driving force” in reforming Boalt Hall’s
Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP). Indeed, you were quoted as saying:
Our students should have the freedom to follow their dreams after
graduation, whether those involve litigating intellectual property
rights at a leading law firm or corporation, or providing legal services
to underserved communities in a non-profit organization. Our new Loan
Repayment Assistance Program - in many respects the most generous in the
nation - will preserve our graduates’ freedom of career choice by paying
up to 100 percent of their legal education debt in low- paying jobs.

This freedom to follow our dreams attracted us to Boalt Hall, a singular
law school with preeminent traditions in corporate and public interest
law. However, the combination of rising tuition and a stagnant LRAP will
preclude students from having this freedom of career choice.

• Over the next three years, annual tuition for both California
residents and non-residents will rise by $14,000 or more than 50 percent
compared to this year. In 2010, California residents will have to pay
$41,000 annually to attend Boalt Hall.

• Keeping living expenses steady, a California resident entering in 2008
will have to pay $172,000 for his or her three years in law school –
nearly 25 percent more than a California resident graduating in 2008.

• According to the American Bar Association, the median public interest
salary is $36,000. A California resident entering in 2008, who receives
no grants or scholarships, will face $80,000 in loans that are above the
LRAP loan cap of $90,000. The estimated $14,000 in annual payments for
these loans not covered by LRAP will amount to 38 percent of his or her
annual pre-tax salary.

Exceptional public interest work is a proud hallmark of Boalt Hall. For
the vast majority of graduates, the weight of these increasing loans
will foreclose the possibility of continuing this legacy. To secure the
tradition of law in service of the public, we must improve the support
for graduates entering lower-paying positions. Towards that end, we
propose the following improvements to Boalt Hall’s commitment to support
such work:

• Clarify standards for qualifying employment. Under the current system,
it is unclear what jobs involve a “substantial use of legal skills”
sufficient to meet program requirements. Eliminating this element of
uncertainty would make it possible for students to plan for public
interest careers with the knowledge that their career paths will be
covered by LRAP.

• Adjust the $90,000 LRAP cap to reflect tuition increases. The school’s
standard student budget contemplates that many students will be required
to take out loans far in excess of $90,000 to finance their legal
education. In light of recent and anticipated tuition and fee increases,
the $90,000 cap needs to be adjusted accordingly to provide
comprehensive coverage of student debt.

• Expand LRAP to cover low bono, private-public interest, and
law-related policy careers. The current LRAP system covers only a narrow
conception of public interest work, ignoring the public interest
contributions of many Boalt Hall alumni in alternate career tracks. As
the salary gap between those occupations and large firms expands, and as
the school keys its tuition and fee increases to large firm salaries,
LRAP should be adjusted to recognize the public interest roles of
attorneys in the gap between traditional classes of purely public
interest and purely private work.

• Expand LRAP to cover clerkships for public interest graduates. For
students planning to enter public interest work, the increased debt
burden resulting from tuition and fee increases makes a judicial
clerkship financially burdensome and, in some cases, impractical. LRAP
should cover clerkships on a provisional basis for graduates declaring
an intent to do public interest work after a clerkship, with provisions
to require repayment from students who take advantage of LRAP and go
into private interest work.

• Create a scholarship program for students with a demonstrated
commitment to pursuing a public interest career through a dedicated
alumni fund. Boalt Hall should create a scholarship program that
provides full financial assistance to a number of students who pledge
that they will work in the public interest upon graduation. A highly
successful program already exists at NYU that can provide a model. Such
a scholarship program would attract the best public interest students to
Boalt Hall, encourage low-income students who might be deterred from
attending law school by the prospect of several hundred thousand dollars
of debt to apply to Boalt Hall, and allow LRAP to conserve resources by
eliminating the need to pay interest on participating students’ loans.

• Provide scholarships to assist students with travel expenses related
to applying for public interest jobs and fellowships. Public interest
students face additional financial burdens while applying for public
interest employment. For example, applicants selected to interview for
Equal Justice Works Fellowship are required to interview in Washington,
DC. Such travel expenses can be prohibitive and ultimately affect the
chances of Boalt Hall students receiving these prestigious fellowships.

• Guarantee that Summer Public Interest Fellowship will be made
available to students for two summers and increase the amount of the
fellowship. The Summer Public Interest Fellowship provides Boalt Hall
students with an important opportunity to gain real world public
interest legal experience. Given that the majority of summer public
interest opportunities for law students are uncompensated, this program
should be expanded to include both summers, with the funding level
increased above the current $4,000.

We welcome the opportunity to discuss these proposals to improve the
public interest program at Boalt Hall. Please contact Joey Hipolito at
510-499-4444 to arrange a meeting.


Sincerely,

Advocates for Youth Justice
American Constitution Society - Boalt Chapter
Asian American Law Journal
Asian Pacific American Law Students Association
Berkeley Business Law Journal
Berkeley Jewish Students Association
Berkeley Journal of African American Law and Policy
Berkeley Journal of Employment & Labor Law
Berkeley Journal of Gender, Law & Justice
Berkeley Journal of International Law
Berkeley Journal of Middle Eastern & Islamic Law
Berkeley La Raza Law Journal
Boalt Criminal Law Association
Boalt Disability Law Society
Boalt Hall Animal Law Society
Boalt Hall Committee for Human Rights
Boalt Hall Democrats
Boalt Hall Labor Coalition
Boalt Hall Muslim Student Association
Boalt Hall Queer Caucus
Boalt Hall Women’s Association
Boalt Meditation Group
California Asylum Representation Clinic
California Law Review
Coalition for Diversity
Community Legal Outreach students
Death Penalty Discourse Project
EBCLC Student Steering Committee
Environmental Law Society
Korean American Law Students
La Raza Law Students Association
Law Students for Reproductive Justice
Law Students of African Descent
Middle Eastern Law Student Association
National Lawyers Guild - Boalt Chapter
Native American Law Student Association
Pilipino American Law Students
South Asian Law Students Association
Sports and Entertainment Law Society
Students Opposed to Domestic Violence
Universities Allied for Essential Medicines
Workers Rights Clinic students

3/07/2008 7:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's a cap of $90K and by the time the tuition increases end, public-interest students will be $175 K in debt on a $40K salary.

It makes me think wistfully about that full scholarship I was offered by another school.

3/07/2008 7:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Theoretically, LRAP needs more funding. On an individual, specific level, though, fuck rich kids (or kids supported by their well off parents) who demand such a break, whether they work in public interest or not.

3/07/2008 8:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

we can talk about who and what "needs" more funding till we turn blue in the face. Until someone has some real suggestions for where the money to support such changes is going to come from, it is all pointless banter to me. We, as a school, are already in financial trouble- which is why they are raising tuition in the first place. Is anyone suggesting they should raise it by even more to cover the money that would be needed to fund these changes? isn't that sort of... exacerbating the problem?

3/07/2008 8:33 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

Hat tip to whoever wrote that letter (Joey Hipolito?). I think it is articulate and well written. Nicely done.

I can understand the frustration people must feel if they intend to use LRAP, and are stuck watching as the gap between their expected debt and their expected LRAP benefit steadily widens. It seems worth talking about . . . maybe at the town hall?

3/07/2008 11:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My impression of the public interest arena was that it was the most difficult place to get a job after graduation because it was so competitive. I thought that it was so competitive because public interest organizations don't have enough money to hire all of the people who want to work for them, even at average salaries of $36k/year. Can anyone confirm/refute this?

If that is the case, won't increasing LRAP funding just add to the problem? Pouring money into loan forgiveness will increase the number of applicants, but not the number of jobs.

Where there are already more qualified applicants than jobs, it seems like spending the LRAP money to create jobs (e.g., new fellowships or clinics at Boalt) would be much more effective.

I suppose that increasing LRAP at Boalt will help Boalt produce a bigger percentage of the nationwide number of public interest lawyers. But then again, the average person who benefits from public interest lawyering probably doesn't care if that person came from Boalt or Stanford.

3/08/2008 12:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with TJ that the loss of grant money due to firm work needs to be addressed. While $9,000 is less than the $30,000 a person would make while working for a firm during the summer, both the $9,000 and $30,000 figures were taken into account when many students selected law schools. Take away the $9,000 and many students are hit with total law school debt that is $9,000 higher than they initially anticipated. $9,000 is not a number to be scoffed at - especially when many of Boalt's peer schools offer significantly more generous need and non-need based financial aid packages. With Boalt's increased tution, decreased grants, and high Bay Areas cost of living, I'm afraid that many talented students will be drawn away from the halls of Berkeley Law in favor of a peer school that offers more generous financial aid to its students (both need and non-need based.)

3/08/2008 12:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Theresa said:

I think it is a good idea that the school is pulling back grants for those who work in a firm. This is not the best use of the scarce grant money, which should be targeted toward the truly public interest or low paid government service oriented students.

Before you complain, please note that I did not qualify for grant money because I worked before law school--and theoretically had "income" to use toward school. This really hurt my second year, when what little savings I had was used for school but I was still expected to pay 15k according the FAFSA (I'd like to know where that 15K came from). Nevertheless, I was still better off than most peers who have undergrad debt and face a lot of law school debt to work in public interest career after graduation. In the same way, people who work at a firm for the summer are way better off than their classmates who work in public interest (or entirely unpaid because they are in a judicial chamber). You will net about 25K (after taxes) in just three months of work and therefore will still be at least 10 - 15K ahead of those people who get a 9K grant.

3/08/2008 1:32 PM  
Blogger tj said...

Theresa: Here's where your math at the end there falls off.

You're saying firm workers net 25k after tax, and accept that they will not be receiving any financial aid - either during school or after.

Then you say that public interest people net that additional $9,000 (again, we're working with rough numbers). Your math puts that as still a 10-15k difference.

However you're forgetting that many of the public interest people may already have $9,000 in grants coming their way. If they're getting the firm kids' $9,000, that's $18,000. And that's not accounting for the fact that there's no 1:1 ratio between firm kids and non-firm kids.

And that's also not accounting any post-graduate loan forgiveness such as LRAP or the Federal forgiveness.

I'm not saying my math's spot on here, but playing with general numbers produces results that call into question (1) the policy of scrapping grants to firm kids; and (2) whether LRAP is really in some dire need for more money (again, I'm not addressing that there are some people who rightfully should get LRAP money who will not).

3/08/2008 2:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

no one turns down a clerkship because of financial reasons. this should the last priority for the LRAP program.

I'm sure once upon a time, that happened once. That person however was probably dropped on their head as a child.

A clerkship is like school, it is an investment in your future. if you can't make the payments on the 60 K or whatever it is a year, then you suck it up, put your loans on forebarance. If you go the firm route, the 50 K signing bonus or whatever it is, will more than make up for the interest the loans earned during that fourth year of your education, of your investment in human capital.

However, the $90,000 cap should be increased. This will allow those clerks who want to go the public interest route, to do so, even after sitting on loans gaining interest for four years.

If you look at our "peer" schools like NYU and Columbia, there caps are much more generous. Maybe twice our cap.

as for the 9000 reduction in grants reducing the recruitment abilities of boalt...umm...a stronger LRAP program will be a much better marketing tool than a few thousand dollars here and there for those who choose the firm route. You know that you and everyone else wrote that you wanted to be the next Ghandi in your application essays.

3/09/2008 4:13 PM  

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