ABA YLD Examines Student Debt Consumer Protections

Aaron Sohaski
The average debt of a law school graduate is around $145,000, which represents an increase of more than 81 percent in a little over two decades.

The average debt of a law school graduate is around $145,000, which represents an increase of more than 81 percent in a little over two decades.

Luke Chan via iStock

To learn more about this critical issue, please consider attending the ABA Young Lawyers Division Spring Conference. At the program, “Student Debt: Is it a Consumer Protection Issue?”  occurring on Tuesday, April 13, 2021, at 3:00 p.m. EST, leading state and local experts in consumer protection will discuss the consumer protection overlay—from encouragement to max-out the available loans, to repayment issues, and even dischargeability (or lack thereof). Speakers will also discuss potential solutions for combatting these issues and the ongoing crisis—the number one issue facing young lawyers today. 

When the American Bar Association (ABA) surveyed young lawyers and law students alike, time and time again, the number one issue YLD members raised is the ability to pay off their student loan debt. In 2020, the ABA YLD surveyed nearly 1,000 YLD members to take a comprehensive look at student loan debt. What we uncovered was striking

More than 75 percent of respondents had at least $100,000 in student loans at graduation, and over half had more than $150,000 in student loans at graduation. This aligns with a recent report conducted by AccessLex, which found the average debt of a law school graduate is around $145,000. To put that in perspective: in 2003, the ABA issued a report indicating that many law students had student loan debt exceeding $80,000, which means that debt number has increased by more than 81 percent in a little over two decades.

In the past, the ABA has focused on relief of law school loan debt and Public Service Loan Forgiveness by advocating for various federal policies. More recently, the ABA approved a resolution that urges extending administrative forbearance of federally held student loans and calls on governments, bar associations, and lenders to assist those experiencing financial hardship due to the pandemic.

As a next step, the ABA YLD wishes to educate its members and greater ABA membership about:

  1. consumer protection overlays throughout the life cycle of a student loan (from signing up through repayment and discharge);
  2. solutions to issues on a micro-scale (what young lawyers can look for or ward against);
  3. consumer protections that can help combat the larger crisis (macro scale, industry-wide); and
  4. the legislative actions that have been taken and the new landscape under the current administration.
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Aaron Sohaski

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Aaron Sohaski is the director of contracting and compliance at Henry Ford Health System and has been a licensed attorney since 2016.