With 97% of law school students taking out loans and 75% of those graduating with over $100,000 in debt, new attorneys are feeling the full weight of the current student debt crisis. This burden directly affects their ability to seek the jobs they want, purchase homes, or even start families. Economic impacts from the COVID pandemic persuaded Congress to include a student debt moratorium in the CARES Act that has helped to temporarily alleviate the problem. The White House has since extended that moratorium through January 2022. However, student loan borrowers need a more permanent solution from lawmakers, not simply a short-term fix.
Why Host a Student Debt Week of Action?
Because lawyers with student debt need us, as do other professionals who are burdened by their student debt. The White House and Congress need to hear from constituents to help them understand the true scope of the problem and learn how student loan debt negatively impacts the personal lives of millions of Americans, so they feel compelled to provide substantive and meaningful relief. The ABA will host a Student Debt Week of Action to help lead that discussion and to ensure the voices of our ABA members and the legal profession are heard.
Join us during September 20-24 to tell Congress what YOU think, and to hear from ABA leaders, industry experts and Members of Congress on actions the federal government can take to assist our members. Send letters through the ABA Congressional message portal, engage online, and meet with your elected officials by teleconference or videoconference.
Lawyers are not always the first group people think of when discussing student debt, but like other professions requiring a license, the educational costs demanded for entry can be incredibly expensive, often including a price tag in the six-figure range for attorneys. A small percentage of lawyers receive high-paying job offers following graduation, but the vast majority do not, yet they still have substantial student loan debt that can take decades to repay. Many attorneys accept lower-paying positions in public service roles, at non-profits that assist low-income and disadvantaged individuals, or provide hard-to-find critical legal services to residents who live in the most rural areas of the country.
What Should You Expect?
The ABA is working with other professional organizations to plan a full week of online events, highlighted by calls-to-action that provide you with the opportunity to communicate directly with your elected officials using our Congressional Messaging Portal. Each day of the week will be focused on a particular aspect of student debt:
o Monday, Sep. 20: Diagnosing the Problem
o Tuesday, Sep. 21: Impact on the Economy
o Wednesday, Sep. 22: Impact on Mental Health
o Thursday, Sep. 23: Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) and How it Fits in the Equation
o Friday, Sep. 24: Recap, Review, and What Comes Next
Monday, Thursday, and Friday will include short broadcast elements with messages from ABA leaders, industry experts, and the Members of Congress actively working to address the student debt problem, including Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). These will be concise programs that will last from 15-25 minutes and include instructions on how you can use ABA tools to directly connect with your elected officials. These broadcast elements will be held on the ABA website and ABA Grassroots social media channels. No need to have an account; just search for @ABAGrassroots on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram to watch.
You will also have several opportunities to engage on social media in conversations, live broadcasts, and more across Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn throughout the week. Visit the Student Debt Week of Action toolkit for an ongoing schedule of events.
What Policies & Reforms Are We Advocating For?
Our goal will be to educate federal lawmakers on the fact that the student loan debt crisis affects a broad and diverse group of industries, which also includes those who pursued advanced degrees that are required to enter certain professions, such as attorneys and medical doctors. Working with other associations, we will call on the Biden Administration and Congress to do one or more of the following:
1) Forgive some amount of student loan debt
2) Offer borrowers the ability to refinance their federal student loans at lower interest rates, and extend the current student loan forbearance period
3) Support the FRESH START through Bankruptcy Act of 2021, recently introduced by Senators Durbin and Cornyn
4) Strengthen the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program
Who Else Is Participating?
Many people feel that the American Dream has become increasingly unattainable for younger generations, and these economic and societal problems have been further exacerbated by mounting student loan debt. Therefore, the Student Debt Week of Action will be an ABA-led effort where we work alongside over a dozen other associations, including the American Institute of Architects, the American Association of Medical Colleges, and the American Psychological Association, with additional organizations still signing up. If you, your firm or your organization would like to participate and receive a packet of resources, please see the event toolkit or email us directly at [email protected].
Join the ABA and other professionals interested in student loan relief for our Student Debt Week of Action. Working together, we can magnify our collective voices to urge the Administration and Congress that the time for action is NOW! Please visit our website for more information and follow us on social media at @ABAGrassroots for ongoing updates.