A PROPOSAL now before the Law School faculty that would make the terms for repayment of student loans easier represents a significant first step toward reducing the pressure on Law School students to seek jobs in high-paying firms. At present, students who will owe the Law School money after graduation must often take jobs enabling them to repay their loans. Effectively, this system discourages--even prevents--many financial aid students from opting for careers in public interest law, generally the least lucrative field of practice. The current financial aid proposal is a laudable attempt to remedy this situation, and the Law School should approve it.
Yet the proposal, which "forgives" graduates earning below $15,000 a year of up to 50 per cent of their loans while extending the time in which an alumnus must repay the remainder, is only a first step. While it does free students somewhat to select a career in a low-income field, the proposal leaves major barriers intact. Even with the "forgiveness" policy, a graduate could owe the Law School $7000-$8000--more than half the yearly income of those for whom the proposal is designed.
Few students will be willing to reject high-salaried job offers when the alternatives involve a sizeable, long-term debt. The Law School should begin to address this issue by institutionalizing a wage fund for graduates in low-paying jobs, to which alumni with high incomes could agree to donate a percentage of their salaries.
The Law School cannot prod its students toward careers in public interest law. It should do a great deal more, however, to reduce pressure on students to enter more lucrative corporate practice.