LOW-PAID GRADS CATCH A BREAK
Claudia Medina wasn’t interested in a lush job at a corporate law firm when she graduated from Boalt Hall School of Law in May. Rather, she followed her interests into the nonprofit world, taking a job defending tenants’ rights at Eviction Defense Network in Los Angeles. But fees at Boalt Hall had doubled during the time Medina studied there, and the $90,000 worth of debt that accrued in school weighed on her.
“I was scared,” she said. “I didn’t like to think about it.”
Turns out she, and other public interest-oriented graduates, will get a break. Boalt decided to give its loan forgiveness program an overhaul this year. Starting in November, graduates who land jobs as district attorneys, public defenders and nonprofit workers with salaries of less than $58,000 can apply to have up to $100,000 in loans forgiven by the school. That is up from the school’s previous forgiveness program, which covered up to $55,500 in loan debt and capped qualifying salaries at $52,000.
“This meant that people really didn’t take pay raises, which was a little crazy, because they would be losing money if they took a raise,” said Laurent Heller, Boalt’s director of strategic planning.
Many starting salaries are less than $40,000 a year, he added.
The program is being funded through a combination of tuition fees and alumni contributions.
In each graduating class, about 15 percent of students go into public interest law, according to Heller. This year, he said, the school expects to dole out about $500,000 in forgiven loans. As the “more attractive program” draws more graduates to these professions, Heller predicted the costs may ramp up to between $1.5 million and $2 million annually in the next five years.
Heather McGhe, a second-year Boalt law student and a member of the financial committee that hammered out details of the plan before sending it to the dean for approval, said Boalt used to be “the greatest deal in the world.” But in recent years, it’s become “only a worthwhile investment if you land a corporate law firm job” that pays $145,000 per year.
“Law students are ambitious people,” she said. “You shouldn’t have to take a vow of poverty to do work that feeds your ambitions and your ideals.”
� Petra Pasternak
MANSON FOLLOWER WANTS OUT
Bruce Davis, one of Charles Manson’s long-imprisoned followers, had plenty of people � including his jailhouse bride and her family � begging for his release last week.
But the most-anticipated speaker � Debra Tate, the sister of actress Sharon Tate, who was murdered by Manson’s minions in 1969 � left things hanging for a month.
Debra Tate, attending an en banc hearing of the state’s Board of Parole Hearings on Tuesday in Sacramento, exercised an option to wait until Nov. 20 to speak her mind. Because of a computer glitch, the board hadn’t provided proper notice for last week’s hearing and told speakers they could save their comments until the next one.
That gave Tate, who opposes Davis’ parole, the opportunity to leave Davis in prison at least another 34 days.
Davis, who’s now 64 and imprisoned at the California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo, wasn’t involved in the notorious, gory killings of Sharon Tate and four others in Los Angeles on Aug. 9, 1969. But he was an integral part of the Manson family and was present for at least two other unrelated murders.
A parole panel split earlier this year about whether Davis should be allowed to go free, which led to last week’s en banc hearing before 11 parole commissioners.
Eight people pleaded for Davis’ release last week, calling him a changed man who has started a Christian ministry behind bars and has become a mentor for others.
“The man you think of 36 years ago, I don’t know that man,” said Beth Davis, a retired flight attendant who married Davis while he was in prison. They have a 13-year-old daughter.
Beth Davis told the commissioners she shouldn’t have to justify her marriage, adding that her husband “is a gold nugget sitting in that prison.”
Some of Beth Davis’ relatives said they initially were worried about her marrying Davis, but changed their minds after getting to know him. One of her brothers-in-law told commissioners that Bruce Davis is “a man of character” and said that “instead of being bitter, he has owned his crime.”
News crews showed up largely for Debra Tate’s testimony. The Tate family has long opposed parole for Manson or any of his cult family, and Debra Tate reiterated that last week by telling the Associated Press that all of Manson’s followers should be kept behind bars.
� Mike McKee