Law School: An Economic Issue

Written by Remy Robertson

A scale.  - Courtesy of Google Images (PLACEHOLDER)

Students at Southwestern University are very conscious of the expensive tuition. Though the University has a spectacular financial aid sector, the high tuition causes many students to take out hefty loans.

Those students interested in attending law school are facing an even bigger financial barrier, however, since the average tuition of law schools is now over $20,000.

Probably the biggest obstacle to a law career is the intense work it demands at big law firms. There are a lot of law students out there that do not want this type of career in law, but do not know how to make anything else out of their degree and pay off law school.

A recent article published by Slate.com has outlined different solutions to these two problems.

First, Slate outlines how law school graduates can join a nonprofit sector.

Law school graduates typically have the largest difference in average salaries between for-profit and nonprofit work. The 2006 Bureau of Labor Statistics survey shows that the average hourly wage for lawyers was $41.08 in nonprofit work, compared to $58.09 in for-profit. This means that nonprofit lawyers earn almost $35,000 less per year than for-profit workers.

The most popular non-profit choice for lawyers are social service programs like the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps or the Senior Corp.

Many lawyers can enter into a movement-based profession, like the legal firms hired to deal with social issues such as immigration, energy policy, health services, employment or human rights.

Second, Slate gives a list of federal financial assistance that can help with paying for law schools. Just like Southwestern’s assistance to undergraduate students, the federal government provides assistance to law school students.

The Department of Education’s Income Based Repayment Plan essentially caps the percentage of your discretionary income you are expected to pay toward your student loan debt.

Heather Jarvis of Equal Justice Works says that an easy calculation is that anyone who owes more than their annual salary will likely be eligible. This process can be deceptive for married couples, since both spouses’ incomes will be counted to determine eligibility.

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program is another possibility. This new program requires individuals to make 120 eligible monthly payments toward their qualifying student loans while working full-time in government or in another qualifying profession (including early-childhood education, social work, and faculty teaching in high-need areas). At the end of that period, the government will forgive the remaining balance.

Sallie Mae, the world’s largest student loan company, has a program called LAWLOAN. With LAWLOAN, a student may borrow up to the total cost of their education, minus whatever other aid they’ve received. Nellie Mae, a division of Sallie Mae, has a similar program called Excel Loan. While the interest rates on these private loans are going to be a bit higher than on federal law school loans, they’re still much lower than a typical consumer loan, and can definitely play a role in your total financial aid package.

More and more governments and even law schools are offering to forgive the student loans of graduates who agree to serve several years in a public service job or government job after they graduate.

All of these suggestions are very helpful, but how does this affect potential lawyers at Southwestern University?

Sarah Gould, Pre-Law Society President and Mock Trial team captain, says that the debt of law school “does not seem to stop Southwestern students from pursuing law degrees.”

She extended by saying, “I think Southwestern students are well aware that debt is just a necessary evil in obtaining a good education.”

Some law school tuitions in Texas are inexpensive. Gould thinks that “finances are not the most intimidating factor” in attending law school, since schools like Texas Tech offer law tuition around $15,000 a year. This is “the lowest price in the state, if not in the country,” Gould adds.

Despite the low tuition rates, the economic crisis that has developed over the past year has impacted law schools.

“First, because graduates cannot get jobs, more and more are applying to law school, making it even more competitive than usual to get in,” Gould notes.

Some schools are seeing a significant drop in attendance because of an inability to obtain funding, and thus, they lower their standards just to maintain a semi-average class size.

Gould does not think that things will change soon, and adds that these problems will probably affect those who graduate in the next three or four years.

The average graduate of a law school leaves with $80,000 in debt. Law career hopefuls should remember that graduates sometimes earn over $100,000 per year immediately after graduating, though it’s not in the nonprofit sector.

Southwestern students interested in pursuing a career in law should keep these things in mind, including the availability of the nonprofit sector as well as the financial assistance law students can receive.

Students at Southwestern University are very conscious of the expensive tuition. Though the University has a spectacular financial aid sector, the high tuition causes many students to take out hefty loans.

Those students interested in attending law school are facing an even bigger financial barrier, however, since the average tuition of law schools is now over $20,000.

Probably the biggest obstacle to a law career is the intense work it demands at big law firms. There are a lot of law students out there that do not want this type of career in law, but do not know how to make anything else out of their degree and pay off law school.

A recent article published by Slate.com has outlined different solutions to these two problems.

First, Slate outlines how law school graduates can join a nonprofit sector.

Law school graduates typically have the largest difference in average salaries between for-profit and nonprofit work. The 2006 Bureau of Labor Statistics survey shows that the average hourly wage for lawyers was $41.08 in nonprofit work, compared to $58.09 in for-profit. This means that nonprofit lawyers earn almost $35,000 less per year than for-profit workers.

The most popular non-profit choice for lawyers are social service programs like the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps or the Senior Corp.

Many lawyers can enter into a movement-based profession, like the legal firms hired to deal with social issues such as immigration, energy policy, health services, employment or human rights.

Second, Slate gives a list of federal financial assistance that can help with paying for law schools. Just like Southwestern’s assistance to undergraduate students, the federal government provides assistance to law school students.

The Department of Education’s Income Based Repayment Plan essentially caps the percentage of your discretionary income you are expected to pay toward your student loan debt.

Heather Jarvis of Equal Justice Works says that an easy calculation is that anyone who owes more than their annual salary will likely be eligible. This process can be deceptive for married couples, since both spouses’ incomes will be counted to determine eligibility.

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program is another possibility. This new program requires individuals to make 120 eligible monthly payments toward their qualifying student loans while working full-time in government or in another qualifying profession (including early-childhood education, social work, and faculty teaching in high-need areas). At the end of that period, the government will forgive the remaining balance.

Sallie Mae, the world’s largest student loan company, has a program called LAWLOAN. With LAWLOAN, a student may borrow up to the total cost of their education, minus whatever other aid they’ve received. Nellie Mae, a division of Sallie Mae, has a similar program called Excel Loan. While the interest rates on these private loans are going to be a bit higher than on federal law school loans, they’re still much lower than a typical consumer loan, and can definitely play a role in your total financial aid package.

More and more governments and even law schools are offering to forgive the student loans of graduates who agree to serve several years in a public service job or government job after they graduate.

All of these suggestions are very helpful, but how does this affect potential lawyers at Southwestern University?

Sarah Gould, Pre-Law Society President and Mock Trial team captain, says that the debt of law school “does not seem to stop Southwestern students from pursuing law degrees.”

She extended by saying, “I think Southwestern students are well aware that debt is just a necessary evil in obtaining a good education.”

Some law school tuitions in Texas are inexpensive. Gould thinks that “finances are not the most intimidating factor” in attending law school, since schools like Texas Tech offer law tuition around $15,000 a year. This is “the lowest price in the state, if not in the country,” Gould adds.

Despite the low tuition rates, the economic crisis that has developed over the past year has impacted law schools.

“First, because graduates cannot get jobs, more and more are applying to law school, making it even more competitive than usual to get in,” Gould notes.

Some schools are seeing a significant drop in attendance because of an inability to obtain funding, and thus, they lower their standards just to maintain a semi-average class size.

Gould does not think that things will change soon, and adds that these problems will probably affect those who graduate in the next three or four years.

The average graduate of a law school leaves with $80,000 in debt. Law career hopefuls should remember that graduates sometimes earn over $100,000 per year immediately after graduating, though it’s not in the nonprofit sector.

Southwestern students interested in pursuing a career in law should keep these things in mind, including the availability of the nonprofit sector as well as the financial assistance law students can receive.

Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply