Nearly 80% of all students take out student loans. The average law school debt ranges from $90,000 to $130,000, while the average public interest law salaries start at $50,000. How can law students or new lawyers who want to work in public sector professional jobs afford to accept them when they have more than $100,000 in student loans to repay? The answer in part is to accept public service jobs where some of their loan balances might be forgiven.
Congress enacted the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program in 2007 in response to a growing crisis in communities across the country that were unable to attract prosecutors, public defenders, legal aid lawyers, doctors, nurses, teachers, and other professionals to provide critical services to their residents. The program helps communities fill key positions with talented professionals by lowering the primary barrier keeping new graduates from pursuing public service careers – student loan debt.
PSLF makes it financially feasible for law school graduates and other professionals to pursue modest paying public service careers by offering partial student loan forgiveness in exchange for a service commitment of at least ten year in public service jobs. Participating individuals must also make their monthly minimum payments throughout those ten years on eligible loans. Coupled with income-driven repayment options that tie monthly repayment amounts to actual income, PSLF has become a direct recruitment incentive, especially for those seeking public service jobs on tribal lands or in rural communities.
In the Time of the Coronavirus:
The spread of the coronavirus has highlighted the critical importance of having professionals available in communities across the country where and when they are needed most. Nurses, teachers, lawyers and others are all helping communities affected by the current COVID-19 health crisis, many of them serving in public service positions because of the PSLF program.
How YOU Can Help This Year!
The PSLF program has been under threat of elimination for years. The ABA is continuing its fight to preserve this important program for legal and other professionals, and we need YOUR help.
Advocacy During ABA Day Digital
Wednesday, April 22nd | 2:00 pm-3:30 pm EST
On April 22nd from 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm EST, we urge you to join the ABA and Governmental Affairs Office for #ABADay Digital. We were, unfortunately, forced to cancel the in-person portion of ABA Day, but the ABA will instead host #ABADay Digital 2020 as our first ever fully online annual advocacy event.
Thousands of bar leaders, attorneys, law students and other legal professionals can add their voices to enhance our collective efforts by quickly sending preformatted emails or social media messages directly to their Members of Congress on each of our advocacy issues, including preserving PSLF. Each of these messages can be edited and personalized for more impact.
Just log on to the #ABADay Digital website and see links to take action quickly to preserve PSLF and have an immediate impact on policymakers making important decisions on Capitol Hill.
More opportunities to engage!
In addition to sending messages to Congress, ABA Day participants with more time are encouraged to join live panels, TEDtalk-like presentations, Twitter takeovers, Tweetstorms, and more, punctuated with specific advocacy actions throughout the day.
As one of our primary issues during #ABADay Digital, we look forward to focusing our efforts to preserve PSLF on Wednesday, April 22nd, from 2:00 pm-3:30 pm EST. During this timeframe, you can hear ABA members speaking about their experiences with PSLF, participate in a Twitterchat with the Young Lawyers and the Law Student Divisions under the hashtag #PublicWageGap, and join a Q&A session with a PSLF policy expert. Our call to action is scheduled for 2:30 pm EST when we hope to flood the social media accounts and mailboxes of our elected officials.
For more details on preserving PSLF events and other #ABADay Digital activities, click here.