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Do Lawyers Get Student Loan Forgiveness?

Do Lawyers Get Student Loan Forgiveness?

A law degree opens up a wealth of opportunities for recent graduates. However, the salary range varies greatly amongst different practices and fields of law. No degree is guaranteed to provide you with the salary you want, and this can make the cost of schooling rather expensive. So the big question is, do lawyers get student loan forgiveness?

Luckily, there are plenty of opportunities as a lawyer to get your loans forgiven. It does, however, depend on the work you do and what institution you are employed by.

The discussion around student loan forgiveness is hotter than ever. President-elect Joseph Biden is facing pressure from Democratic Senators to forgive up to $50,000 for borrowers. While the fate of student debt hangs in the balance, it’s important to understand what your options are right now.

Whether you are a current law student, a recent graduate, or an active lawyer in the workforce, we will discuss your options and answer the question: do lawyers get student loan forgiveness?

What is Student Loan Forgiveness?

As of right now, there are roughly 45 million student loan borrowers in the United States. A staggering number, but it is the price many Americans pay for attending top schools. High tuition costs often mean that students may have to take out loans in order to afford the price of school. In most cases, six months after graduation is when loan repayments begin.*

*Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government suspended payments for borrowers through Jan. 31st, 2021.

Yet, there are programs by which borrowers can have the loans forgiven, cancelled, or discharged. Before we really jump in, let’s distinguish between the two definitions.

Student loan forgiveness means you no longer are required to make payments on the loans that you used for college. This means that part of, or all of your student loans are wiped away. However, the federal government or the private borrower you loaned from must decide if you are eligible. We’ll talk a bit more about this later. 

Student loan discharge means that a borrower no longer has to make payments on their loans under specific circumstances. While not exclusive to this list, your loans may be discharged because of death, identity theft, disability, bankruptcy, and fraud.

However, not everyone may qualify for student loan forgiveness. Lawyers get student loan forgiveness under certain circumstances, whether that be an occupation or some type of repayment program.

How do Lawyers get Student Loan Forgiveness?

To get your student loans forgiven, there are three paths that serve as primary outlets for forgiveness. Those who qualify under these programs or services may get a significant chunk of their loans forgiven. Let’s take a look at what these options look like.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF) is a great way for lawyers to get their loans forgiven. As one of the more popular loan forgiveness programs, the PSLF does have certain requirements that need to be met.

The first requirement is in the name itself. If you are a lawyer, your employer must qualify under the specifications for the PSLF. Your employer must be a government-sponsored or nonprofit organization.

The second requirement has to do with your payment history. In order to qualify, you must make 120 qualified payments while working for said qualified employer. These payments must be consecutive and you must be working full-time.

Department of Justice Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program

Also known as the ASLRP, this program is perfect for anyone seeking practicing law. The office runs this program in an effort to retain and recruit lawyers. The Department of Justice (DOJ) offers this program for any DOJ employee with $10,000 or more in federal student loans.

Those seeking to receive this loan can apply in the spring, but is only limited to current employees of the DOJ. There is an extensive list of loans that the DOJ may forgive if you qualify:

  • Perkins Loans
  • Stafford Loans
  • Supplemental Loans
  • Plus Loans
  • Federal Consolidation Loans

For a complete list of qualifying loans, you can visit the DOJ’s website.

Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAPs)

If the public sector isn’t all that appealing to you, then some states in the United States offer LRAPs to ease the financial burden of student loans. Law schools in certain states offer these programs to students. While they aren’t available in all states, here’s a list of state where LRAPs are offered:

  • Washington D.C.
  • Florida
  • Indiana
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • New Hampishire
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas
  • Vermont

As with most states, the laws and qualifications around LRAPs may vary. You can check out the different qualifications on the American Bar Association’s website.

The John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program

Let’s jump back to jobs in the public sector. If you want to work as a public defender, then the John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program is just for you. With a maximum award of $60,000, eligible candidates may receive up to $10,000 a year to help with student loan repayment.

Unlike the LRAP, each state in the country is provided with funds specifically for this program. In order to apply, you must have been employed as a public defender for at least three years.

You may also qualify if you are a prosecutor of a state or local government. You must be a licensed prosecutor that prosecutes criminal or juvenile delinquency cases at both the federal and state level.

The Herbert S. Garten Loan Repayment Assistance Program

Lastly, this loan repayment assistance program uses a unique system. For qualified attorneys, the Herbert S. Garten Loan Repayment Assistance Program makes use of a lottery system. Attorneys who are employed by one of the program’s grantees can receive the benefit. 

This program helps out those with at least $75,000 in outstanding student loans. Every year, the program awards up to $5,600 to approximately 125 attorneys across the country.

Options for Lawyers in the Private Sector

Only under specific circumstances may you qualify for student loan forgiveness. As we outlined above, public servants, public defenders, nonprofit employees, and government employees typically qualify for student loan forgiveness. Therefore, forgiveness of student loans is only reserved for specific occupations with rigid qualifications.

However, many lawyers do not work within the public sector. Lawyers that work within the private sector may not receive the same benefits as those serving the public. That being said, there are still plenty of options to receive assistance on your student loans.

If you have a good salary, there is a good chance you may not qualify for any student loan forgiveness programs. Even so, student loan payments prove to be quite the burden. It may be useful to reassess and refinance how you pay your loans.\

When you refinance, you change the terms of your student loans. You can adjust the monthly payments, lower your interest rate, and more. Lawyers with good incomes, solid credit scores, and low debt-to-income ratios can save quite a bit on their student loans.

Some of the public options outlined above may not be a great fit for you. There are still plenty of ways you can save money, pay off your loans, and be a successful attorney in the process.

Conclusion

As outlined above, there are many ways to answer the question of just how do lawyers get student loan forgiveness. Of course, the best way to receive said benefits is to work within the public sector.

There are many grants and repayment assistance options available. Even if you do not work in the public sector, you can still qualify for repayment programs or refinance your loans.

First, one of the best ways lawyers get student loan forgiveness is through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. The PSLF incentives lawyers, and people in general, to take up occupations to serve the public. Whether you work for a nonprofit, a government entity, or serve as a public defender, you may qualify for this program through your employer.

Second, the Department of Justice allocates funds for every state in the Union with the Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program. If you work for the DOJ, then you may qualify for loan assistance. However, remember that you must have at least $10,000 in outstanding student loans to qualify.

Also, several states offer repayment assistance programs through the LRAP. We list out all states above, as the rules vary from state to state. But, this program is usually reserved for attorneys who received their degrees from a private university.

Last are the John R. Justice and Herbert S. Garten Loan Repayment Programs. The John R. Justice program solely provides aid to public defenders with a maximum aid prize of $60,000. The latter uses a lottery system to hand out money to well over 100 attorneys across the country.

So, do lawyers get student loan forgiveness? They absolutely do! We’ve outlined a lot of information in this article, but be sure to check the fine print to see how you may qualify.

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