Yale is making a slight change to its low-income loan forgiveness program, and it’s going to make it a little harder for people who leave Yale Law School and take low-paying jobs.
Now, this isn’t anything to yell and scream about. Yale is still committed to making loan repayment feasible for people who don’t take the Biglaw money and run. And they still have one of the most generous programs in the country.
But the program is getting a little less generous. Which isn’t a great sign about the long-term ability of lawyers who have the financial flexibility to service poor or working-class clients….
The Yale Law “Career Options Assistance Program” (COAP) is still one of the best in the country. From the WSJ Law Blog:
The Career Options Assistance Program is meant to encourage alumni to pursue public service careers, although it is not limited to specific career paths. Previously, the program allowed law school graduates who earn less than $60,000 a year to have their loans fully subsidized, while those earning more are expected to contribute a quarter of their income above that baseline. The new policy lowers the baseline salary to $50,000 and expects varying percentages of income from alumni, based on a sliding scale of income brackets.
The fact that Yale students can take this program even if they do non-legal, low-paying work is a nice feature. Believe me, it’s a really nice feature that other law school should adopt. The WSJ says that $50K is already the cutoff at Columbia, and $45K is the threshold at Harvard Law School.
But the Yale Daily News says that the school is making this move to protect the long-term viability of the program.
What about the long-term viability of lawyers being able to service poor clients? Law school tuition is still going up. If things keep going this way, only rich “limousine liberals” who have parents (or trust funds) to pay for college and law school will be able to afford to work at legal aid.
Yale isn’t at all to blame for this. Yale is still trying to give its students career options. But if Yale is pulling back, it doesn’t bode well for schools that aren’t willing to put their money where their mouths are with respect to training the public interest lawyers of the future.