IBR

For the past few weeks, I’ve been writing about law school hoping that it would help would-be law students make an informed decision. I exposed some misperceptions about law school that no one discussed. I also suggested some cost-effective and possibly lucrative alternatives to a legal education. And I wrote about some last-minute things to consider before going to law school.

But some of you will still go to law school for the wrong reasons and pay rip-off prices. Ego, familial expectations, and peer pressure may play a role in your decision. So I want to finish the law-school-themed posts by issuing a warning to students and their parents about the consequences of graduating without a meaningful job and with six figure, nearly nondischargeable student loan debt….

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Whenever the government gets involved with “helping” students suffering under crushing debt obligations, I wonder if “the government” even partially understands how students think.

There is a new proposal in the budget that would bring significant changes to the student loan forgiveness program. Specifically, the “Public Sector Loan Forgiveness” program. Currently, students with massive amounts of debt can sign up for income-based repayment of their student loans. Their payments are capped at 10% of “discretionary” income. If they work in the public sector or for a designated non-profit, the government forgives the rest of their loans after ten years. For those playing along at home, that means that taxpayers pick up the rest of the bill.

Critics on both sides of the aisle (including me) argue that the current system encourages schools to charge whatever they want for tuition, while discouraging students from making cost-conscious choices about their debt. It’s far from ideal, and this new proposal seeks to do something about it.

But since Congress is involved, the thing they want to do to “fix it” is stupid and will ultimately hurt student borrowers even more….

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A law professor’s reaction to the post-graduate employment market.

You learn a lot about people and institutions when they are desperate. You learn a lot about people by the way they respond to adversity. You learn a lot about people when they are backed into a corner, staring into an abyss, as the walls are crumbling around them. Some people rise to the occasion: England during the blitz, Ali in the jungle, that one time I needed to do a shot at the Cancun airport to complete my “100 drinks during Spring Break” pledge.

When faced with real adversity, most people, most of the time, soil themselves and end up a bloviating mess of hypocrisy and protectionism: McCain picking Palin, The French, me begging for a ‘C’ in French even though my wife did all my homework.

I think the vanguard of the American legal academy has reached that sad, embarrassing stage where they are willing to say anything, to anybody, in a desperate attempt to prop up the notion that law school is a good idea. Today we’ve got video of a guy, an associate dean, “defending” the current system of legal education with a full assault on reason.

And I think it’s sad. A people should know when they’re beaten. Instead of fighting for an old way that hurts students, you just wish people like this could seize this opportunity to talk about a new system that isn’t based on taking advantage of people. Instead, it’s just another law professor who is still hoping that prospective law students are “too stupid” to understand math and logic…

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“It comes down to this,” said Hayley Schafer, 30. “Is there anything else I’d be happy doing? No. Is there any way around paying off the loans? No. So, what the heck? A lot of it is just trying to put it out of your mind and maybe it’ll disappear.”

Schafer has more than $312,000 in educational debt and earns just $60,000. She must be a lawyer, right?

But Schafer’s not a lawyer or law school graduate. What does she do? The answer might surprise you….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “In Defense of Law School: It’s Not the Only Alleged Culprit in Higher Education”

* While Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts made a plea to keep funding for the federal judiciary intact, we learned that student loan default cases have fallen since 2011. You really gotta love that income-based repayment. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* Introducing the Asia 50, a list of the largest firms in the Asia-Pacific region. When it comes to the firms with the biggest footprints, only one American Biglaw shop made the cut. Go ahead and take a wild guess on which one it was. [Asian Lawyer]

* Congratulations are in order, because after almost a year of stalling, Arnold & Porter partner William Baer was finally confirmed by the Senate as the chief of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. [Bloomberg]

* Our elected officials might not have allowed the country to fall off the fiscal cliff, but the American Invents Act was put on hold, so if you’re a patent nerd, you can still be mad about something. [National Law Journal]

* Remember when Rutgers-Camden Law said “many top students” were making bank after graduation? Yeah, about that: Law School Transparency just filed an ABA complaint. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Here are some law school trends to look out for in 2013. FYI, the applicant pool is smaller because no one wants to foolishly gamble on their careers anymore. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News & World Report]

* In the latest NYC subway shoving death, a woman was charged with second-degree murder as a hate crime, and allegedly bragged about other hate crimes she’s committed to police. Lovely. [New York Times]

* Next time you’re trapped on a plane that’s literally filled with other people’s crap for 11 hours, don’t bother suing over your hellish experience — you’re going to be preempted by federal law. [New York Law Journal]

* Change may be coming soon in light of the Newtown shooting, but any talk about new federal restrictions on guns will hinge on the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Second Amendment through the lens of the Heller case. [National Law Journal]

* Joel Sanders and the Steves are facing yet another “frivolous” lawsuit over their alleged misconduct while at the helm of the sinking S.S. Dewey, but this time in a multi-million dollar case filed by Aviva Life and Annuity over a 2010 bond offering. [Am Law Daily]

* Always a bridesmaid, never a bride: Pillsbury has had the urge to merge since February, and now the firm may finally get a chance to walk down the aisle with Dickstein Shapiro. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Income-based repayment is a bastion of hope for law school graduates drowning in student loan debt, but when the tax man commeth, and he will, you’ll quickly find out that the IRS doesn’t have IBR. [New York Times]

* Is the premise of graduating with “zero debt” from a law school that hasn’t been accredited by the ABA something that you should actually consider? Sure, if you don’t mind zero jobs. [U.S. News and World Report]

* Daniel Inouye, Hawaii’s Senate representative for five decades and a GW Law School graduate, RIP. [CNN]

Here at Above the Law, we frequently address law school loan debt and the many ways it has screwed over various members of the legal profession, including some of our own editors. As many of you know, both Elie and I graduated from law school with six figures of loan debt. And although we both have a seemingly insurmountable pile of debt to pay off, we’ve gone about doing so in different ways. He’s been paying collection agencies not to break his knees since 2007, and I’ve been paying my loans like a good little indentured servant since 2010.

But I’ve got to admit, that wouldn’t even be possible if it weren’t for income-based repayment (IBR), the magical plan that caps your payments at 15 percent of your discretionary income. With IBR, I’ve been able to continue making interest-only payments for about two years, gleefully awaiting the day that I’ll finally be able to dig into the principal amount — which will likely never happen, but hey, a girl can dream.

The pesky thing about IBR is that you have to reapply each year to tell your loan servicer that yes, you’re still ridiculously poor, and no, you still can’t afford to pay those insane amounts they’d expect you to fork over otherwise. I sent in my reapplication packet more than a month ago, specifically so that I’d know what my new payment amount would be for the upcoming bill’s due date.

So you can imagine my COMPLETE AND UTTER shock when I opened my mail this morning to see that with my glamorous “entry-level journalism salary,” I’d apparently been kicked off of my IBR plan.

Happy f**king New Year to me, right?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “How the Heck Will You Pay Your Law School Loans After You’ve Been Kicked Off Income-Based Repayment?”

Don’t be fooled by her smile; Justice Kagan knows how to benchslap.

Don’t be fooled by her smile; Justice Kagan knows how to benchslap.

* Kagan, J., benchslapping. [Josh Blackman's Blog]

* I think I’d get this if I understood gymnastics. [Associate's Mind]

* Some people think IBR is pointless, but if you disagree, check out this petition. [We the People: Your Voice in Government]

* Partner readers, check out this new podcast (featuring law firm consultant Ed Wesemann and yours truly). [Attorney Search Group]

* Our annual Law Revue Video Contest is still a few months away, but if you like making legally themed videos, keep an eye on this contest (more details forthcoming, including info on the prizes). [Federal Bar Association]

* Speaking of contests, we welcome your votes in the ABA Journal’s Blawg 100 (under “News/Analysis”). [ABA Journal]

* And speaking of Above the Law, the deadline for applying for our writer/editor position and our internship is tomorrow — so act now if interested! [Above the Law]

Professor William Birdthistle

Welcome to the latest installment of Lawyers & Economics, our occasional video series on financial topics by Professor William Birdthistle of Chicago-Kent College of Law. He’s joined in some of these videos by an acting professional: Johnny Kastl, television actor turned 2L at Iowa Law, better known to some of you as Dr. Doug Murphy of “Scrubs.”

In the last video, Birdthistle and Kastl tackled the Greek debt crisis. Sadly enough, that problem remains unsolved, to the detriment of the world’s financial markets.

Today’s topic isn’t going away anytime soon either. If you have — or are thinking of taking on — student loans, keep reading….

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As we mentioned in Morning Docket, more and more law school graduates are trying to seek bankruptcy protection from their mountains of student loan debt. Bankruptcy? Really?

Now, we know that reading comprehension is tested on the LSAT, but apparently, once students complete the law school entrance exam, that skill goes right out the window. How do we know? Because law school graduates, who freely signed up for student loans as law students, are now trying to shirk their repayment responsibilities. They are the 99% (of people who sign on the dotted line and think nothing of it until it’s time to face the consequences).

All the documents these law school graduates signed and claimed to have read and understood prior to accepting their student loans — well, they had some words to say about bankruptcy. Important words. Here are some of them, pulled from my very own master promissory note:

We will discharge (forgive) your loan if: [y]our loan is discharged in bankruptcy. However, federal student loans are not automatically discharged if you file for bankruptcy. In order to have your loan discharged in bankruptcy, you must prove to the bankruptcy court that repaying the loan would cause undue hardship.

Aww, you think you’ve got an undue hardship, precious little snowflake? Well, think again….

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