Loan forgiveness programs keep public interest lawyers on the job Assistant EditorIt has been said that an obstacle is something you see when you take your eyes off the goal. But, for law school students today, student loan debt can be difficult to overlook, especially for those entering the legal aid and public interest arenas.The goal for lawyers in this area of law is obvious — to provide legal assistance and services to some of those who need it most — the poor and children. What is not so obvious, though, is that this passion to help the needy can cost young lawyers in excess of $80,000 in loans, while the average annual salary earned by lawyers in public interest work in 2002 was just $36,000, according to the ABA.Cognizant of this growing problem, The Florida Bar Foundation and St. Thomas University School of Law have followed suit in what has become a catalyst campaign against the burdens of law school debt. In their efforts to help bear this burden, both have found early success with their respective Loan Repayment Assistance Programs.In a recent report put out by the ABA, the culmination of a special two-year project, the ABA Commission on Loan Repayment and Forgiveness recognizes the problem and addresses prospective ways to alleviate it.The report, “Lifting the Burden: Law Student Debt as a Barrier to Public Service,” focuses largely on loan repayment assistance programs. A loan repayment assistance program (LRAP) provides financial aid to law school graduates, typically those working in the public interest or government sector. In most cases, this aid is given to graduates in the form of a new and forgivable loan to help them repay their annual educational debt.According to the ABA’s report, assuming a standard repayment schedule of 10 years, an $80,000 debt means payments of more than $1,000 per month. With median law school tuition steadily on the rise (up to $24, 920 in 2002, for private law schools, as opposed to just over $7,000 in 1985) 86.4 percent of law students borrowed an average of $77,300 in 1999-2000.Ft. Lauderdale lawyer Bruce Lyons, liaison to the ABA’s Criminal Justice Section, worked on the ABA’s special commission. He said the panel “had to really stop and think to figure out what was going on” and how to address the problem. One thing the group found that seemed to work was the LRAP program.The St. Thomas University School of Law began their LRAP program this past December/January and are in the second round of applications. John and June Mary Makdisi, former dean and professor, respectively, along with alumni Mark Brown, started the program.“They have such a personal commitment to helping students,” said Cheryl Chapman, St. Thomas’s assistant dean for external relations. Chapman said the school had to research other schools from around the country to find out what format would best fit their law school. Taking into account the nature of the work, debt-to-income ratio, total debt, annual gross household income, and any additional income, the process for choosing recipients is extensive.“The first time we did it [the program], we were able to make awards to all four applicants,” said Chapman, who also said the one-year stipends paid anywhere from $50 per month up to $130 per month.“Programs like these are so important,” Chapman said. “Our graduates. . . they are so committed to [public service] and they have all this loan debt. Part of our mission is to help them in the trenches.”“We just wanted to help students who didn’t have the funds because of tremendous debt,” said John Makdisi. “It has been impressed upon me that this is one of the best things we can do for law students.”Following that same philosophy, The Florida Bar Foundation has found great success with its LRAP program.“It is a wonderful program that is tremendously needed for public interest,” said Anthony Karrat, executive director at Legal Aid Services of Broward County, who has seen a lot of talented advocates pass through his office because they were unable to live on the pay.Paul Doyle, the Foundation’s director of Legal Aid for the Poor and Law Student Assistance Grants, said the Foundation’s program “meets a critical need.” He said the young recipients of the forgiveness stipends perform highly in legal service, and genuinely want to do the work.Some said the issue faced is larger than just debt, with a steady annual rise not only in tuition, but also in the cost of living. Stephen Everhart, immediate past chair of The Florida Bar’s Criminal Law Section and professor at Stetson, said the problem is within the law schools themselves.In his new book Screwing Students & Society, The Truth About Some Law Schools, Everhart suggests shortening law school to two years with one year of apprenticeship, and switching regulation of legal education to The Florida Bar and away from the American Association of Law Schools and the ABA.Moving forward on faith, both St. Thomas and the Bar Foundation are convinced that LRAPs are a step in the right direction.Jack Wallace, a 2000 graduate of the University of Miami, said he came out of college with between $80,000 and $90,000 in loans.“If you have $1,000 per month in loan payments alone, it can be tough to work at a place that pays $35,000 to $40,000 per year,” said Wallace, who said he found the Bar Foundation’s LRAP program to be very well managed.Wallace explained that many students have a genuine feeling of responsibility when it comes to this type of work.“I think when somebody decides to go to college or specialized school, it is an investment,” Wallace said. “They [the government] can take your car or your house, but not your education.. . not your ability to help others.”Wallace said it would have been very difficult for him to stay in public interest work if not for the funding provided by the LRAP. But Wallace said even though he still owes about $60,000 in loans, he feels like he is better off than some young lawyers.“I don’t have any kids, and I’m not married, so it makes it a little easier,” Wallace said.Ann Siegel, a 39-year-old mother and lawyer, had two kids and a mortgage when she graduated from Nova Southeastern University in 1998, and she found herself with a combined undergraduate and law school debt of approximately $180,000. Siegel said she couldn’t do the work that she loves without the assistance.“I could not make the payments prior to getting the assistance,” said Siegel, who admitted the stress made it difficult at times to sleep at night. “I would think ‘How am I going to make ends meet?’”In a country where society-serving lawyers owe such a large debt in student loans, a paradox arises: What about the large debt that society owes them?“You still have to make your payments,” said Siegel. Loan forgiveness programs keep public interest lawyers on the job September 15, 2003 Daniel Staesser Assistant Editor Regular News
Former Chelsea Captain, John Terry, has admitted missing Super Eaglesâ€™ Captain and former teammate, John Mikel Obi.The Aston Villa captain, who played alongside the Nigerian at Stamford Bridge for 11 seasons where the pair won the Champions League, Premier League, among other titles, took to the social media to reveal how much he misses playing with Mikel. Mikel, who is on holiday with his family as the Chinese League is on break, posted a picture of his two daughters and wrote: “My love bugs.”In his reaction, the former England captain wrote beneath the post: “Looking well old boy@mikel_john_obi, missing ya mate. Send my love to the family (sic).”John Terry is currently recovering from injury and will wish to still file out one more time with the Nigerian skipper, but Mikel has however ruled out a return to England any time soon.Share this:FacebookRedditTwitterPrintPinterestEmailWhatsAppSkypeLinkedInTumblrPocketTelegram
On Tuesday night, members of the Black Student Assembly, Diversity Affairs and the Undergraduate Student Government Senate presented the “Space for Students of Color” resolution, which aims to create a house or programming space that promotes well-being and success among black students at USC.Our place · Undergraduate Student Government Vice President Rini Sampath speaks at the USG meeting Tuesday in Ronald Tutor Campus Center. USG’s resolution would create programming and space for black students. – Ralf Cheung | Daily TrojanAma Amoafo-Yeboah, executive director of Program Board, expressed the need for a university-recognized, student-run cultural center for students of color on campus.“When you’re sitting in class all day and you’re the only black person, it’s important to feel as though you have a space to go back to … where people have had the same experience as you’ve had,” Amafo-Yeboah said.In a survey of 116 students conducted by USG, 36 percent of black USC students ranked “available social space” as the least satisfying component of their USC experience. “Sense of belonging” was second lowest. Studies suggest a direct correlation between these factors and students’ academic retention rates.Other universities, including Northwestern, Georgetown, and Stanford University already have social houses for black students. According to the resolution, the planned space would feature 24/7 programming capability and printing, as well as other resources that would contribute to “the success of all students on campus.”“Having this space won’t negatively affect anyone, it’ll only be a positive for those who currently feel uncomfortable,” Amafo-Yeboah said.Proponents hope that a house for students of color will make them more academically successful and spark a larger conversation about inequality on campus. While presenting the resolution, Amafo-Yeboah read a statement by a USC student.“Since I am a student of color, I am not welcomed with open arms into the university,” the anonymous student said in the statement.Skylar Dunn, co-director of Diversity Affairs, echoed this sentiment. Dunn, who co-authored the resolution, became involved with the project at the request of Amafo-Yeboah.“I really wanted to make a specific change before I graduate,” Dunn said.Dunn said he frequently encounters negative assumptions about black students at USC. Among them: that black students are “athletes,” or otherwise different from the rest of the student body.“It’s one thing to tell people, ‘I go to the University of Southern California,’ and its another thing to feel like you’re a part of it,” Dunn said.USG Vice President Rini Sampath decided to co-author the project after conversations with students of color on campus opened her eyes to the issue.“I always knew there were issues on campus, but I never realized the degree to which it impacted students on an individual basis,” Sampath said.Sampath pointed out that the lack of a social space for black students is at odds with the university’s mission to welcome students of “every race, creed and background.”Levi Powell, co-director of Diversity Affairs, agreed with Sampath, saying the resolution affects every member of the student body.“We don’t want this issue to be a reflection of people in this room, but more so a reflection of all of the minds at USC,” Powell said.The university has approved similar initiatives in the past, such as Somerville Place, an African American-themed dorm on the fifth floor of Fluor Tower. The dorm hosted meetings for African-American clubs on campus until increased security measures made the building inaccessible to non-residents. Powell called the measures “understandable,” but stressed the current lack of social space for black students on campus.“We’re not even talking about a space that’s ours 24/7, only a space that we can use for a few hours a week. And we don’t even have that,” Powell said.Authors of the resolution hope that “Space for Students of Color” will have a strong educational component. BSA Executive Director Casey Ellis emphasized the importance of “the home” in African-American culture and its correlation with general success.“Having our history on the wall as something we can show to prospective and current students is so important to our culture,” Ellis said.Amafo-Yeboah agreed, and said the house is open to all students who want to learn about black history.“It’s important to acknowledge the African diaspora, and educate other students who come into the space,” Amafo-Yeboah said.The authors of the resolution have met with USC professors and administrators to discuss the project. Notable alumni such as Dr. Michelle G. Turner, MBA, Ed.D, executive director of the Black Alumni Association, were also consulted about the project.Though proponents still have to raise funds for the space, they believe the right support will allow them to move the dialogue forward.“The money and space are small concerns compared to the support of the administration and student body,” Sampath said.Though they face many obstacles, proponents of the “Space for Students of Color” resolution believe that they are up to the challenge of solving them.“This is a stepping stone … It’s about opening up a conversation,” Sampath said.