Harvard Law School Dean Robert C. Clark has announced that students and alumni who take jobs in fields not traditionally considered “law-related” will be eligible for the school’s loan forgiveness program – the first law school program of its kind in the nation. This dramatic change will allow Harvard Law School graduates greater freedom in pursuing full-time positions in the nonprofit, government, and academic sectors.
Additional modifications to the program will make greater resources available for graduates at all income levels whose debt burden makes it difficult for them to meet monthly loan payments. The new guidelines will take effect July 1.
“When combined with an extraordinary increase in scholarship funding for the upcoming year, these changes help make the overall Harvard Law School financial aid program one of the most generous need-based law school programs in the country,” wrote Clark in a letter to students and alumni announcing the changes.
The changes to the loan forgiveness program – known as the low-income protection plan – are key features of the school’s recently completed strategic plan. Although most portions of the strategic plan will take years to implement, the Dean and the faculty elected to immediately improve the loan forgiveness program to provide increased career flexibility to students and alumni.
The loan forgiveness program is supplemented by a number of postgraduate stipends that have been introduced in recent years. Roughly 50 graduating students receive awards ranging from $5,000 to $10,000, plus 10 students receive loan forgiveness of up to $25,000 over three years if they choose to work in federal government agencies. Additionally, the school has recently increased funding to assist current students pursuing summer public interest jobs.
Established in 1978, the loan forgiveness plan was created to address concern about students’ increasing debt burdens and the disparity between private sector and public sector salaries. It is the oldest law school loan forgiveness program in the nation. Over the past decade, more than $13 million has been dispersed through the program.
Led by Clark, the Law School recently completed a multiyear strategic planning process that will make both immediate and long-term changes to the school. Proposals in the plan will dramatically shrink first-year class sizes, increase financial aid, strengthen connections to the legal practice, expand research and teaching in international law, and improve the school’s infrastructure. Approved overwhelmingly by the Law School’s faculty in December, portions of the strategic plan await final approval by the Harvard Corporation – the University’s top governing body.