Loans and the public sector

August 18, 2008
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President Bush signed the Higher Education Opportunity Act, H.R. 4137, into law last week, which provides loan forgiveness for students entering public services jobs, including public defenders, prosecutors, and legal aid attorneys.

In exchange for committing to work for at least three years as an attorney in one of the above fields, the attorney general will have the obligation to repay up to $10,000 a calendar year in student loans for those attorneys. The law limits the amount of money a graduate can have repaid by the attorney general and who will receive priority in having repayment benefits.

This is a great idea and it’s about time the government stepped up and helped out college graduates who choose to help the public instead of getting a high-paying salary in a nice office. Smothered under a mountain of law school debt after three years, many students look to private practice and law firms to earn bigger salaries than what public defenders and prosecutors’ offices can offer. I guarantee you there will be more law students looking more closely at entering a public service job as opposed to joining a law firm because of this program.

Turnover is high in public defenders and prosecutors’ offices because attorneys earn low pay for the amount of work they do as compared to private practice attorneys. Does this law have its limitations? Sure. Will this mean there will be a huge rush in applications to the public defender’s office? Probably not, but I bet there will be more interest from students who were debating whether to go that route.

This new law is a step in the right direction in ensuring more quality attorneys will choose to enter the public service sector, not only because they want to, but now they can more easily afford to.

Updates about the implementation of the bill will be made available at Equal Justice Works, which has been following the bill and its real world applications.
  • Does anyone know how and when prosecutors can apply for loan forgiveness under H.R. 4137?
  • We\'re currently working on a story about HR 4137 and what it means.

    The part about who is eligible and how is (more or less) under Section 952, about Page 393 of the 431-page bill. Information about civil legal aid attorneys is under Section 431, around Page 165.

    The entire document includes information about other higher education programs and repayment initiatives.

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  1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues