Congress passed a bill that will authorize a new Justice Department program to repay student loans for law school graduates who become state or local prosecutors or federal, state or local public defenders and agree to serve in those posts for a minimum of three years.
The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Rep. David Scott, D-Ga., authorizes $25 million for the program for fiscal 2009, though advocates for the legislation said it's unlikely that the appropriations committees would provide such funding by next year.
While both key sponsors are Democrats, the legislation has received bipartisan support as it made its way through the two houses and is expected to be signed by President Bush.
The program is aimed at enticing law school graduates into the lower-paying legal government service jobs in spite of higher-paying alternatives at law firms that would better allow them to pay off their tens of thousands of dollars in student loans.
Federal prosecutors aren't included in the program because there already exists a government loan repayment program for those government employees.
Attorneys eligible to receive the loan repayment benefits under the new program will only be allowed $10,000 in benefits in a given year and $60,000 overall.
The program is authorized under the Higher Education Reauthorization Act for a six-year period.