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….
You’ve graduated from law school. Congratulations! There’s just one small problem: you’ve now got six figures of debt attached to your name, and you have absolutely no idea how to pay it all off. You’re determined to do it, though, come hell or high water.
Having a modest income, you signed yourself up for income-based repayment. You thought (perhaps mistakenly) that it would be the best option for you. You want to get all of your financial ducks in a row so that you’ll be able to make the most of your future.
Alas, your Mint account just told you that you’re doomed…
This is some quality dissembling. Dean William Treanor of Georgetown Law decided to enter the fray by responding to the New America Foundation report that I wrote about last week that claimed that Georgetown Law was using a loophole to use its public service debt repayment program to profit off the federal government. By way of recap, the school agrees to pay off the income-based payments of its students in the federal income-based repayment plan itself, then raises tuition for the next crop of students and uses that money to pay off their payments later, creating a big circle where tuition is artificially (if only marginally) inflated and taxpayers pick up the tab and the school pockets the profit.
Dean Treanor’s response attempts to deflect the criticism, but the article misses the entire point of the controversy.
As mentioned in Non-Sequiturs last week, this story is why we can’t have nice things. Specifically, why lawyers make it so we can’t have nice things.
On Friday, the Washington Post reported that Georgetown Law had worked out how to bilk the federal government into fully paying for some its students’ tuition and managed to create a profit for itself on the side. This is caused a bit of a stir Friday afternoon, but unfortunately the practice is neither new nor limited to Georgetown.
Though some tactics Georgetown employs may go beyond what any other school has the gall to attempt….
“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….
In Professor Paul Campos’s new book, Don’t Go To Law School (Unless) (affiliate link) — a book I’d recommend to anyone thinking seriously about law school — he shares an email from an individual who, after much research and thought, decides to enroll in law school. The email sheds some light on why people continue to sign up for law school despite all the warnings (from folks like Professor Campos, my colleague Elie Mystal, and many others). The law student writes:
[Prospective law students] think: debt doesn’t matter. There is no penalty for defaulting on the debt, except the relinquishment of the privileges of an advanced financial life. . . Students evaluating the horrible deal in question believe they have no access anyway to those privileges (e.g. a retirement account, a home purchase, a start-up business). For the student in question, all law school has to do is provide some potential benefit, and it becomes a rational choice.
After acknowledging that “[t]here’s a lot of force in this line of argument,” Professor Campos tries to refute it, basically arguing that many who go to law school based on such reasoning are “making a difficult situation worse.” But maybe the argument is not so easily refuted.
After all, what else are you going to do with yourself? Before you criticize law schools and those who matriculate at them, please familiarize yourself with the grim economic realities of twenty-first century America….
* 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]
* 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]
* 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]
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past seven years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s that time of year again when JDs are starting to apply for 2L summer jobs and 2L summers are deciding which practice area to focus on.
For those JDs with an interest in potentially lateraling to or transferring to Asia in the future, please feel free to reach out to Kinney for advice on firm choices, interviewing and practice choices, relating to future marketability in Asia, or for a general discussion on your particular Asia markets of interest. This is of course a free of cost service for those who some years in the future may be our future industry contacts or perhaps even clients.
For some years now Kinney’s Asia head, Evan Jowers, has been formally advising Harvard Law students with such questions, as the Asia expert in Harvard Law’s “Ask The Experts Market Program” each summer and fall, with podcasts and scheduled phone calls. This has been an enjoyable and productive experience for all involved.
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