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New endowment program designed to help law students pay back student loans

Published:

April 30, 2012

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The average American law school student graduates with more than $100,000 in student loan debt, according to Bloomberg Law. For graduates who choose to work for nonprofits which provide legal services for low-income clients, paying off that debt can be an onerous task.

A new program at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, located on the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis campus, seeks to lighten the burden for its graduates who choose to practice public interest law.

The IU Robert H. McKinney School of Law Loan Repayment Assistance Program assists the law school’s graduates who are employed full-time with non-profit organizations and governmental agencies dedicated to serving the legal needs of low-income individuals and families in Indiana.

Graduates may apply to the LRAP Endowment for loans to refinance existing educational debt and to reduce the burden of educational loan payments. The loans are forgiven contingent upon achievement of certain employment, income and other program requirements.

“Lawyers who chose to work in public interest (law) generally make much less in terms of salaries than lawyers who work in the private sector. We are trying to assist students who work in public interest,” said Sonja Rice, LRAP administrator.

The LRAP Endowment is the culmination of years of advocacy by the School of Law’s chapter of Equal Justice Works, according to Katie Rosenberger, president of the student organization. For the past decade the group has worked to make loan repayment assistance a reality for law students who wish to practice public interest law. Fundraisers include the annual Equal Justice Works Public Interest Dinner with the proceeds from ticket sales going directly to ensure the LRAP Endowment.

“While there is still a lot of work to be done, it is wonderful seeing the LRAP (Endowment) finally launching and enabling future attorneys to pursue their dreams,” said John Tao, Equal Justice Works vice president. “Many students, prior to law school, talk about their wish to help ‘save the world’ but find they cannot when they are faced with their law school debt. Now, with the LRAP Endowment we are able to enable students to pursue their dream of saving the world and making a difference.”

IU Robert H. McKinney School of Law J.D. degree recipients who are at least six months post-graduation are eligible to apply for loans from the LRAP Endowment. Federal Family Educational Loans including Stafford, Supplemental, Grad PLUS and Consolidation loans, Federal Perkins Loans, and educational loans borrowed through established student loan programs can be refinanced. Up to 50 percent of the applicant’s annual student loan payments, up to a maximum $5,000, may be awarded to each approved applicant

An LRAP Endowment applicant must be employed in full-time, law-related public interest work. Examples of such employment include legal services offices, public defenders, prosecutors and other appropriate government agencies and advocacy groups. The employer must be a 501(c) (3) organization or the federal, state, or local government. Applicants must have annual household income from all sources at or below $50,000.

Graduates with delinquent or defaulted accounts are not eligible for assistance.

The deadline for application for loans for the 2012-2013 fiscal year is July 1.

Alumni with questions about loans from LRAP Endowment may contact LRAP administrator Sonja Rice at sorice@iupui.edu or 317-274-8043.