Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Goodbye grants, you will be missed...

The financial aid office has released offer letters on Telebears. It's official: if you plan to work at a firm, you will (most likely) lose any chance at a grant.

I don't feel this is getting enough attention. The $4k DE grant for summer public interest work is well-known among current and future students. But, given the financial aid grants were in the neighborhood of $9k, this new grant policy makes that $4k seem trivial.

Effectively, a job in public interest will now result in grants upwards of $13k [or more] from the school. I only say "or more" because the extra money that isn't going to the students working for firms will most likely be redistributed to the public interest kids as well.

Any thoughts?

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25 Comments:

Blogger McWho said...

People who know my nickname of McAsshole may be shocked, but I actually don't really have a problem with that. I mean seriously, 33k or so in a summer is still better, and I appreciate the school working hard to ensure that people who DONT work for a firm can afford to go to Berkeley at all.

This last year was kind of a freak bank error in your favor thing, in my view.

4/23/2008 6:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm working public interest this summer, and my grant is up to $7,645 (from $5,803 last year). A whopping $1,842 increase - thanks Boalt!

(But mysteriously, I am apparently not getting a Perkins Loan this year? Is there an age or year cutoff for that?)

4/23/2008 6:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, this sucks. I got almost $9,000 a year for my 1L and 2L year and I'm getting 0 next year. I was expecting to get less because I'm working at a firm, but not $9,000 less. The financial aid office did not do a good job of informing us how dramatic an effect summer earnings would have on grants. I would've thought much harder about doing public interest this summer if I'd known this.

4/23/2008 6:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In response to McWho, I think that Berkeley already does do a pretty good job of helping public interest kids. With the summer DE grants and the generous LRAP program, many of the die hard public interest students will leave Boalt debt-free.

That is a better situation than many non-public interest students are in. While the majority of students end up working at firms, I would venture to say that a large percentage of that majority has no intention of staying at a firm long term. Many would like to work in government, business, or smaller law practices, but feel that due to their large debt loads, must "put in the time" at a firm. That equates to spending YEARS being miserable at a firm just to pay back the $100K + that they incurred while studying at Boalt. By taking away the $9k in grants and raising tuition, the Boalt administration is prolonging the pain and agony (time at a big firm) that many Boalt grads will have to endure. After many of these Boalties pay off their loans - two, three, four years later - they will move on to lesser paying, more satisfying jobs. Perhaps these jobs don't even pay drastically more than the jobs many public interest students have. Additionally, they've spent years being miserable - which the public interest students have not. To sum it up - even to many big firm students, the $9k does still matter.

While some may not find the argument persuasive, the loss of the $9K grants potentially poses other problems. For instance, it makes Boalt's non-need based financial aid packages less competitive compared to peer schools. Combined with increased tuition, will Boalt begin to lose admitted talent due to inferior financial incentives? Admits know how to do the math.

4/23/2008 7:01 PM  
Blogger tj said...

This is why I keep my posts short and sweet and let all of you generate the real content for this blog. Couldn't have said it better, [6:57 and 7:01].

4/23/2008 7:36 PM  
OpenID legalgeekery.com said...

That's interesting. Pennsylvania has a program where people going into public interest get a certain amount of loan forgiveness based on their salary.

I think it makes sense since we're all in the same boat right now (except for the rich kids) and it should theoretically equalize later when firm lawyers are paying back their loans, and PI lawyers with low salaries have their loans totally forgiven.

4/23/2008 8:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The sense of entitlement depresses me... C'mon - we're going into $160k / year jobs. Try to think about how the rest of the world lives.

4/23/2008 11:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, what's up with the Perkins Loan?

4/24/2008 2:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The loss of 9k in your 3L year isn't significant compared to the salary you're going to be making and the benefits you get working at a firm. How many public interest orgs pay for barbri/bar expenses? That's over $4000 if you're working in California.

If we care about public interest, then we need to provide more assistance to public interest folks. With the tuition hikes, it's getting more and more difficult to turn down firms. I've seen a number of people who were gung-ho about working for a good cause decide by 3L that they're gung-ho about working for biglaw.

4/24/2008 10:58 AM  
Blogger Boris said...

My thoughts. Without taking a stance on whether current grants and school support for public interest students is not enough / too much / just right.

As Boalties we have decided (or been asked) to help subsidize the noble and lower-paying career choices of our fellow students. Most would agree with that the importance of their work.

At some point, however, we choose to stop subsidizing and let each student make their own career choice. An equality of outcome (such as equal salaries for all first year graduates) is the extreme, and I don't think anyone is advocating for that.

So the question is where do we draw the line, and I have no idea.

4/24/2008 11:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I bet 99% of the world would do just about anything for $160,000/year.

Yet at Boalt people expect to be paid NOT to work for $160,000/year.

4/24/2008 11:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think this is crap & I'm a bleeding heart public interest type. I worked before law school at a public interest job and my income was "too high" for me to qualify for any grants for both my 1L & 2L year. My subsidized loans were also affected. So, I was basically punished for working my way into the expensive law application process. For those of us who have zero family support, working at a firm is often the best option to support our families, have a little savings, try to *maybe* save a little for a mortgage, etc. I'm sorry, but I think that any kid getting support from their parents should never be eligible for grants. Does anyone know how they account for parental contribution into the grant formula? How do they ensure that students actually account for parental contribution, which can include such informal things as paying for rent, airline tickets, etc? I also think that the 22 year old who comes into school with no income shouldn't be put at an advantage over the 25-26 year old who made $30K working their a*s off at a nonprofit before law school. The grant system sucks. Boalt's endowment sucks. I'm pissed off. Also, it looks like the FAO isn't making a distinction between folks working at firms who will make less than the standard $3100/week. This disadvantages folks at mid-size firms. Maybe I'm wrong about that, but it looks to me like there's a general across-the-board "no grant" policy for those at firms (except maybe plaintiff side??).

4/24/2008 12:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

12:47

There is no genuine across the board policy for firms. The formula is calculated solely off of your earnings for the summer. So if a public interest job paid $160k, that would take away eligibiltiy for grants also.

That is what the FAO told me.

One data point: I am working at a firm for only a few weeks and then for the government, and am still grant eligible.

4/24/2008 1:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I rather expected this, considering the email that went out about this year's grants.
In response to Anonymous, I really don't think it's a big deal, even though I am one of those people that would like to jump ship from the firm after I've paid my debts. $9000 at $3100/wk is five more weeks of firm work, after taxes, which, in the grand scheme of things, affects very little at all.

4/24/2008 2:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no fair way to distribute grants. It just isn't possible. There are too many complications:

1) There is no reliable way to determine who is getting support from their parents and who isn't. If parental income/net worth is a factor, people whose parents really don't support them will get screwed.

2) It is impossible to determine who is most "deserving" and current indebtedness and future earnings plans are poor proxies. Many Boalt students took scholarships to less prestigious undergrad schools. Many Boalt students worked their way through cheap undergrad. These students might not have much debt. Many Boalt students went to expensive private schools, didn't work much, and came to Boalt deeply in debt. Is it really fair to make the kid who, for financial reasons, turned down an Ivy and worked 20 hours per week for four years at a state school subsidize the kid who went to an Ivy and racked up $150k of debt?

Grants are too hard to administer fairly. LRAP - as many problems as I have with it - is much more precise. Anyone who works at a firm for five years can afford to finance their entire law school education with pure debt. Anyone who works at a public interest organization can get LRAP funding. Grants are unnecessary.

4/24/2008 2:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

12:47,

Truthfully, I don't know or remember how Boalt takes parental contribution into account, but I can tell you that they certainly should not do it based on age or just-out-of-college status. I came here when I was 22, fresh out of undergrad, and I receive jack squat from my parents. I don't receive $ from them for airline tickets, rent, car payments, insurance, etc. I am sure that other students in the same situation as me do receive $ from parents, in fact I am sure some of them do, and I don't know what's done about that, but not all straight-throughs get money from our parents.

4/24/2008 2:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boalt doesn't take into account parental contribution. You don't have to fill out the parent part of the FAFSA at all.

One way we could give out grants that would give everyone a fair shot at them would be to base them on merit...

4/24/2008 3:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...Boalt already does that, in the form of scholarships (the matching scholarships for our peer schools).

4/24/2008 4:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anyone know anyone who had their scholarships matched? I've heard that the scholarship matching program is aimed at helping Boalt attract underrepresented minority students who are being heavily recruited by other schools. Boalt being Boalt, and the text of the letter ("Students who receive Boalt matching funds are selected on the basis of the unique contributions they can make to the intellectual diversity and vitality of Boalt Hall") leads me to think that very well may be true.

4/24/2008 5:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also wonder who actually received a matching scholarship. I am a non-minority who came into Boalt with numbers well above the 75th percentile. I was refused a matching grant even though I had better financial aid offers from "better" schools. In addition, I have a pitiful bank account balance and don't receive a dime from my parents.

4/24/2008 6:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two points:

1. Keep in mind that, as of last year, Boalt has instituted a new means of calculating financial need (all personal and parental assets are now considered, via Need Access) and calculating financial aid (everyone with need is expected to take on $30,500 in fed. loans before grants kick in and cover remaining need). This is a more fair and accurate system than was in place before (need was crudely assessed based on a student’s tax return). It better targets those w/ need.

2. To respond to 7:01’s comment: “many of the die hard public interest students will leave Boalt debt-free.” I think you exaggerate things--being debt-free for these students is at least a decade away. Everyone w/ financial need is going to be graduating with at least $30,500 x 3 in debt. LRAP will “cover” this, but cover doesn’t mean what you imply. It’s not immediately wiped off the books. As these students stay in public interest positions, year-after-year, their debt will slowly be paid off, over ten years. Most won’t stay in such positions for a decade.

4/24/2008 6:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not a URM, and I got a matching scholarship. It was a pittance compared to the matched scholarship, but I was a CA resident, so it didn't take a whole lot of money to equilibrate the cost of Boalt and the other school.

4/25/2008 8:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Echo the statement of 6:23, it is absurd to suggest public interest students are graduating debt free, and to imply they are taking the rosy path on the backs of the firm-bound who will slave away in misery for years. As someone with a long, demonstrated public interest commitment, I can attest to the scarifies I have made, and to the palpable fear I feel at the thought of being dependant for the next decade on government and public school loan repayment assistance. I do not come from wealth, I have family in need, the lure of paying off the debt in a couple years and helping my family via firm work is enticing, but my commitment to service comes first. This is a terribly painful choice, made more difficult by insinuations of free-riding on the easy-street by those set to join the ranks of the world’s wealthiest.

4/29/2008 6:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

6:14 needs to quit whining.

At least you're going to get to see your family, be home for dinner, get 8 hours of sleep at night, etc.

Your do-gooder sense of entitlement sickens me.

And to say anything other than the fact that you benefit while riding the backs of those who work in firms flies in the face of reality. If everyone took your rosy life path there wouldn't be the money for anyone to do it.

4/30/2008 1:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If fewer law students went to biglaw, law schools would lose their principle justification for charging such excessive tuition, paying law professors far more than other disciplines, dissuading poor and public interest students from joining the profession, etc. It is unfortunate to characterize LRAP as subsidization of public interest students (which I realize DE and others have done), rather than as a recognition that the assumption of excessive pay underpinning the modern legal education financing system does not hold true for them. It is unfortunate because it pits students against one another (so much so that 1:30 is sickened by “do-gooders” intent on following through on their public interest commitments, regardless of sacrifices and callous insinuations) and because it shifts blame away from the much larger problems with educational access, school finance, and fostering of social justice, in general.

5/01/2008 2:55 PM  

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