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Overall, law schools nationwide deserve a failing grade for not adequately promoting public service careers, according to a report released Tuesday by the National Association for Public Interest Law. The 360-page report, “Financing the Future,” focused on law school spending on loan repayment assistance programs (LRAPs) and public interest scholarships. The group concluded that in the last five years, the “number of LRAPs in existence has remained disappointingly flat.” For example, in 1994, the last time NAPIL conducted a similar survey, there were 48 LRAPs reported nationwide. Currently, there are 47 such programs. In New York, for example, Brooklyn Law School has increased its loan repayment assistance program, enabling its graduates to enter public service, but City University School of Law has canceled its program altogether. Following a significant rise in law school tuition in the past decade, the average law school graduate goes into the work force with nearly $80,000 in debt, according to NAPIL. This translates to an estimated $900 per month in loan payments over a 10-year period. As a result, most graduates cannot consider working for public interest organizations, which on the average pay $31,000 a year, in contrast to $125,000 offered by large law firms. “We see some deeply troubling trends,” said David Stern, executive director of NAPIL. “The cost of a legal education has skyrocketed. … Without these programs, justice is even further out of reach for most Americans,” he added. Although the number of loan assistance programs is down slightly since 1994, the payout from these programs has more than doubled, going from $3 million in 1994 to roughly $7.6 million in 1999, according to the study. But the majority of the load is being carried by only six law schools: Yale Law School, New York University School of Law, Harvard Law School, Columbia University School of Law, Stanford University Law School and Georgetown University Law Center. These institutions account for 70 percent of LRAP spending, NAPIL reported. GAINS AND LOSSES For instance, in the 1998-99 school year, NYU disbursed $1,091,579, the second-largest amount of all law schools nationwide. Only Yale beat out NYU, with $1,369,061 in LRAP spending in 1998-99. Another New York law school on the list of six was Columbia, with $748,179 in LRAP funding. Moreover, other schools have either decreased their loan assistance funding or eliminated the program all together. In New York, for example, City University of New York School of Law eliminated its loan repayment funding, while Hofstra University School of Law decreased spending. A few schools, while not distributing anywhere near $1 million annually, have increased their public interest funding significantly in the last five years. For instance, Brooklyn Law School was the only New York school in a select group of seven nationwide that boosted LRAP spending. Brooklyn Law went from $12,158 in LRAP funding in 1994 to $149,721 in 1999. Since 1994, only one New York law school has created a new LRAP program: Pace University School of Law. “Regardless of a school’s endowment or size, establishing and enhancing LRAPs and public interest scholarship programs should be a top priority,” said NAPIL’s Stern.
Making the Most Out of Law School. October 16-27. Free Program.

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