Deferral Stipend, Student Loans

Georgetown Extends Post-Graduate Stipends: But Is It On the Backs of Part-Time Students?

A couple of weeks ago, we reported on the public interest stipend Georgetown Law offered its recent graduates. Georgetown University Law Center gave a three month stipend of $4,000 to its recent graduates who are working for a public interest organization.

Today, we have news that GULC is extending the fellowship for an additional three months. That’s great news for GULC grads. But it’s terrible news for administrators at UCLA Law and UT Law, two schools which are hoping to knock Georgetown out of its vaunted #14 spot in next year’s U.S. News Law School Rankings. Consider GULC’s employment stats sufficiently juked.

Potentially, it’s also terrible news for part-time night students attending Georgetown. This money has to come from somewhere, and right now it looks like part-time students are helping Georgetown cover the budget…

Again, the news going out to recent GULC grads couldn’t be more positive. Here’s a bit of the email the students received from OCS about the extra money:

Hi all,

We are writing with two important updates for participants in the Post-Grad Funding Program:

1. After consultation with the Dean and other administrators, we are able to offer a 3-month extension of funding to interested participants. The funding will again be a maximum of $4,000, and a requirement of the funding is that you continue to seek full-time employment. If you are interested in requesting an extension, please email [Redacted]. All participants who request an extension will be required to schedule a phone appt…

2. We are pleased to announce the second year of the Howrey/Georgetown Pro Bono Clerkship program! The program awards one-year clerkships to up to five (5) Georgetown Law graduates from the class of 2010 who are continuing to search for full-time legal employment. The goal of these clerkships is to provide new graduates with training and hands-on legal experience to assist them in finding full-time legal employment.

Good times! And the people who stand to get some of this money are thrilled, as this tipster reports:

Basically, it extends the Post-JD Funding program for another 3 months, which means 1) I get to stay in the awesome unpaid job I have now, and 2) I won’t starve while I’m doing it! As I was planning on continuing in my current position anyway (and getting some crappy evening job to pay the bills), I can’t express how happy this email made me this morning. Go Georgetown! They really know how to take care of their graduates.

But is Georgetown taking care of its recent graduates at the expense of its current part time students?

A couple of weeks ago, Above the Law learned that Georgetown charges a higher tuition rate/per credit hour to its part-time students than it does for its full-time students. That discrepancy is due in part because part-time students study at the law school for four years, while full-time students are done in three. That leaves part-timers paying an extra year of tuition increases (since it is apparently impossible for a major American law school to keep tuition flat for two years in a row).

That seems fundamentally unfair, and Georgetown is aware of the problem and working to fix it. Georgetown has not responded to us on the record about this issue, but we understand Georgetown is looking at some long term measures to resolve this problem. However, tipsters report that Georgetown is unwilling or unable to correct this problem immediately because of “budgetary concerns.”

It’s strange for a law school of Georgetown’s stature to be operating on such a razor thin budgetary edge that it needs to squeeze every last cent out of part time students. But then you remember that money for public interest fellowships and whatnot has to come from somewhere. The money probably isn’t all sitting in one big pot: surely Georgetown already budgets for various expenses relating to its U.S. News rankings. But if GULC is paying out an extra $4,000 to recent graduates who weren’t able to find private practice work, that’s $4,000 less that it has to use for something else.

And somewhere in there, part-time students are getting screwed.

But maybe only in the short term. We know that many students go to law school part-time do so in order to hold down full time jobs that can help pay some bills and defray the cost of getting a legal education. Even if they have to pay more money upfront, the lack of debt they’ll have (relative to full-time students who are financing their education entirely through student loans) might pay significant dividends for them down the road.

Heck, if they play it right, the part-time students might not even need GULC to give them a stipend in order to make public interest legal work a viable financial option.

Earlier: Taxes Eat Away at Georgetown’s Public Interest Stipend for Some Students

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