Earlier this week, we asked readers to submit possible captions for this photo:
On Thursday, you voted on the finalists, and now it’s time to announce the winner of our caption contest…
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]
* 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?