Student Loan Debt

You may recall that back in 2011, before all of the law school litigation came into being, the California Culinary Academy (CCA) was hit with a multi-million dollar class action lawsuit filed by its graduates. The allegations contained therein — misleading job data, high tuition, and difficulty finding jobs after graduation — were very, very similar to those found in the law school lawsuits we revel in covering. Unlike the law schools that are currently under fire, the CCA offered to settle the case for $40 million, and that settlement was approved and entered as a final judgment this summer.

While the only law school lawsuit that’s come anywhere close to CCA’s status has been Alaburda v. Thomas Jefferson School of Law — currently in discovery, where all sorts of interesting stuff has been unearthed — law school plaintiffs may have another avenue to explore, thanks to yet another lawsuit that’s been filed by CCA graduates. This time, the bitter would-be cooks are out for blood against the very company that funded their failed culinary education.

That’s right, Sallie Mae is being sued for handing out private loans with “credit-card interest rates” like candy — really expensive, life-ruining candy. When will law school graduates do the same thing?

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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?

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Marco Rubio

Man, I need to write a book. At this point, it could be about anything. Law. Debt. Raising a baby who can take a punch. It doesn’t matter. I’ve known for some time that selling a book is the only way I’m ever going to pay off my massive law school debts.

What I didn’t know was that becoming a best seller was the only idea our nation’s political leaders have for paying off their own law school debts. Seriously, you’d think my book idea was a fanciful plan that is the cause of terrible financial planning. And it is. But I’ve written before about how our president, Barack Obama, didn’t pay off his law school debts and until he published a best-seller. It’s not exactly a sound financial plan, even though it does work out in some cases.

But this “just write a book” approach to law school debt knows no party lines. Today I found out that Republican Senator (and likely presidential candidate unless Republicans figure out that “Cubans from Miami” are not the same as “Mexicans living in Colorado”) Marco Rubio took the same path to paying off his law school debts.

So, I don’t know, maybe I shouldn’t feel bad about still having this much debt, and instead get busy writing, “How to Write a Successful Blog When Your Readers Kind of Hate You.” Because apparently, that’s how a leader approaches the vexing problem of educational debt….

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* Mirror, mirror, on the wall, which is the fairest firm of them all? According to the 2012 Acritas Brand Index survey, the current leader of the Global 100 is the most powerful Biglaw brand for the fifth year in a row. [American Lawyer]

* But that might not last for long, considering the dilemma Baker & McKenzie is facing when it comes to joining the Shanghai Bar Association in China. The firm is one of the first to indicate that it’ll take the plunge. [Wall Street Journal]

* Thanks to the Second Circuit, Rajat Gupta will be a free man on bail pending the appeal of his insider trading conviction. We wonder what Benula Bensam would have to say about this new twist. [DealBook / New York Times]

* Jason Smiekel, the lawyer who pleaded guilty in a murder-for-hire plot involving a former client, was sentenced to eight and a half years in federal prison. The things men will do for HHHBs. [Chicago Tribune]

* Student loan payments: coming to a paycheck deduction near you! Congress is considering an overhaul of the country’s student debt collection practices, and Rep. Tom Petri has some interesting ideas. [Bloomberg]

* The Cleveland-Marshall College of Law is the latest school to hop aboard the solo practice incubator train, but graduates will have to rent their office space from the school. Nice. /sarcasm [National Law Journal]

* “We didn’t file this complaint lightly.” Sorry, Judge Norman, but as it turns out, you can’t just sentence a teenager to attend church for 10 years as a condition of parole without pissing off the ACLU. [Tulsa World]

* When your alterations cost more than your wedding gown, it’s pretty much a given that you’ll have some problems — ones worth suing over, if you’re a true bridezilla (like moi). [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

Apparently, Chuck Klosterman believes law deans without checking to see what they’re hiding.

Man, the New York Times is just full of people defending law schools these days. First we had Lawrence Mitchell, Dean of Case Western Law School, write an op-ed about why he is “proud” to be a law dean. I’m not sure if he’s proud to have written an op-ed that has been savaged by everybody, but there you go.

This weekend, the Times ran an Ethicist column by noted pop culturalist Chuck Klosterman about the “morality” of law schools enrolling students at hefty tuition prices when they know the job market is very challenging.

Klosterman defended law schools, though it’s not clear that he intended to. In fact, it’s not clear that Klosterman knows just how “unethical” law schools have become.

But hey, you don’t actually have to understand the challenges of legal employment to defend law school in the New York Times these days….

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I reported back in October that the New York Times had asked me to write an op-ed piece about the future of big law firms, but a Dealbook special unceremoniously preempted my piece.

I figured the editor at the NYT might think she owed me one, so I cranked out a replacement piece proposing to reform legal education. I’m pleased to report that this op-ed piece was not preempted! No, no, no: It was rejected on the merits. The editor said that my article made too many points and felt like a “report, rather than an opinion piece.”

But she was wrong. And, in any event, you should judge for yourself.

So here’s my recently rejected op-ed piece proposing how we should reform legal education. (I do believe this is the last in my short-lived series of “crap I wrote for the Times that the Times didn’t publish.” It’s an awful lot of work to produce 1,200-word pieces that become mere fodder for another column here at Inside Straight.) . . .

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* Allowing abortions only in cases where the life of the mother is at stake doesn’t actually protect the life of the mother. [Slate]

* Chief Justice Roberts decided that living in a glass house shouldn’t prevent him from throwing a few stones. [Atlantic]

* It’s that time of year when we start seeing lists of things to buy for the lawyers in your life. [Constitutional Daily]

* You realize that people aren’t actually going to pay these loans back, you know. [Economix / New York Times]

* Wow, there was a whole day in New York City where nobody got shot, stabbed, or raped. [Reuters]

* While you contemplate living in a dangerous city, check out this list of most dangerous campuses. [Business Insider]

* Hopefully you guys have noticed Above the Law in the News category on the ABA Blawg 100, but don’t forget to look at all the different sections and vote for your favorite sites. [ABA Journal]

Ed. note: Gradenfreude is a new series chronicling a recent law school graduate’s life after attending an unranked school. Feel free to email the author at [email protected], and he’ll respond ASAP. After all, it’s not like he has anything better to do.

When President Obama was debating Mitt Romney, he patted himself on the back because of the strides he took to give young people the chance to get an education by making student loans available.  I guess making loans available is all that really matters, because after all, who cares about having the loans paid off? That’s the one thing that he didn’t mention: once you accept the loans, you’ll be bent over a barrel for the rest of your life — unless, of course, you’re able to become a Senator and then write a couple of best-selling books.

I think that most students realize they’ll spend the vast majority of their lives paying off the loans they took out to further their educational pursuits.  What many may not realize is just how ridiculous the government is when it comes to getting their money back.  Their tactics and terms fall just short of being classified as Mafia-like. On the bright side, if there is one, at least no one’s broken my legs yet.

Although the government may allow for a deferment for economic hardship, if you have a full time job, it’s likely that you won’t meet the strict requirements to attain that deferment.  Because even when you work a job that only allows you to live in your parents’ basement, essentially as dependent upon them as you were in high school, the fine United States government still expects timely repayment.

That’s right: I currently make too much money to qualify for an economic hardship deferment, and I work for just over minimum wage.  Earning the least amount of money per hour that I ever have in my life, I am making too much money to earn the government’s pity….

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Back in April, we brought you a story about a family who had written to Dear Abby, an advice columnist, about their child’s law school loan debt. Apparently the mere thought of assisting their darling daughter with the repayment of her $100,000+ debt load was just too much to bear. The daughter had already ruined her own life, so why should they ruin theirs too? And yet, tens of thousands of students are still willing to look this student loan debt problem in the face and laugh.

Yes, in a time where the Executive Director of the National Association for Law Placement is forced to write entire columns about the fact that there is no conceivable way he could describe the current entry-level job market as “good,” others are still considering applying to law school.

For example, today we found out that the matriarch of another family sought wisdom from an advice columnist as to whether her husband should go to law school. How did she respond? Let’s just say Dear Prudence is a little more in tune with the realities of today’s legal job market than Dear Abby will ever be….

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I had the pleasure of being at Hofstra University last night to watch the presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. I wasn’t actually in the venue where the debate itself was held, but in overflow seating with a bunch of Hofstra people. I had been invited earlier in the day to participate in a student debt discussion at Hofstra Law, and they let me hang around for the rest of the day.

I already know who I’m going to vote for. Everybody I spoke to already knew who were they going to vote for. If there were people there who were still unsure about who they were going to vote for, I didn’t notice them, probably because “undecided” voters are too stupid to walk around campus and talk and not choke on their own saliva. In any event, it was fun to watch the debate with a diverse group; everybody hears what they want to hear. Republicans heard Romney’s five-point plan to fix the economy and piss off China. I heard this:

But I’d like to think everybody heard the same thing from both candidates when it comes to student loans: a load of bullcrap….

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