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Georgetown Offers 'Free' Law School

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Professor Philip Schrag and his book, Repay As You Earn: The Flawed Government Program To Help Students Have Public Service Careers.
Rebecca Sheir
Professor Philip Schrag and his book, Repay As You Earn: The Flawed Government Program To Help Students Have Public Service Careers.

By Rebecca Sheir

You don't normally hear "free" and "law school" back to back. But Georgetown University Law Center is looking to change that, with its new Loan Repayment Assistance Program.

The program dovetails with a new federal law, which allows people working a public service job to pay only 10% of their income toward their student loans. After ten years, the entire debt is forgiven.

The Georgetown plan will cover that ten-percent for graduates earning less than $75,000 a year. Though third-year student Jill Pasquarella says she'll be lucky to bring in $50,000 as a public defender.

"It's difficult work," she says of her chosen profession.

"It's trying work. And debt is one of those things, in addition to the sort of emotional trials of this kind of work, that can really bring people down."

If not make them avoid public service altogether. Professor Philip Schrag, who developed Georgetown's loan repayment program, says many law students have hoped to do public service, "and then discovered they couldn't really do what they'd come to law school to do, and ended up in a private law firm where they felt they weren't themselves."

Schrag says Berkeley Law is following Georgetown's lead, and other schools are considering it - provided they can find the funds. Georgetown's loan forgiveness budget is $1,000,000 a year - thanks to generous alumni donations.

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