Tuesday, March 13, 2012

On loan forgiveness.

I signed a petition today regarding student loan forgiveness.

I am a lawyer. I started law school in 2002. When I began law school, the office of career services assured me that the average starting salary for its new graduates was $90,000.


I didn't go to a top-tier law school, but it was a solid top-100 school. It still is. I should not have had any worries about my future employment. I signed on the dotted line. I borrowed thousands upon thousands to attend law school. I didn't borrow the maximum. I had a scholarship and some grant money. Additionally, I worked twenty hours of week my first two years of school and even more during my third year. Truthfully, the money I borrowed didn't seem real to me. Why? I was going to make enough to pay off my loans in ten years. If I graduate law school at 25 (or 24 in my case), I will have that paid off by the time I'm 35. That's good debt, right?

Um, no.

I was fortunate enough to land a job within two months of being sworn in as a new attorney. However, even in private practice, my job did not afford me anywhere close to that promised salary. No worries, right? I just needed experience to get one of those jobs. My ten year plan was not necessarily off track. Two years later, I left for greener pastures (meaning, more money). I still struggled with my loan payments.

Two years later, I took a job with the government at a significant pay cut. The main reasons? I wanted a better life. I was completely miserable at my last firm. I temporarily went into forbearance to get on my feet. Six months later, I resumed paying my loans. In total, I have been paying my loans for over six years. My current balance? Nearly $15,000 more than when I exited law school. I have had a steady job since my first job. I have paid something, whether a partial payment or a full payment, on my loans since 2005. I have not defaulted. Yet I still cannot seem to make a dent.

A few months ago, my boss told me that he was only a few years away from paying off his loans. Rather than feeling happy for him, I felt complete despair for my own situation. More than that, I became very angry.

While I full accept responsibility for my loans, I am angry. I am angry that my education cost so much money. I am angry that I was promised a certain salary and have yet to come anywhere close to that amount as an attorney with six years of trial experience. I am angry that because my loan payments take up so much of my income, I am unable to save for my future. I cannot fund an I.R.A. I cannot save up for a down payment on a house for my husband and myself. I can barely find the money in my budget to allot for vacation, one thing that is more important to me than the house, the I.R.A., or even food. I'm kidding. (But not really.)

If something unexpected comes up, I don't have that "emergency fund." I use my credit cards entirely too much. I feel guilty after dinners out with my friends, knowing that the $75 I spent on dinner and drinks would be better spent in savings or toward my loans.

In all honestly, I fear that I will never pay off my loans. Allegedly, I have thirty years to pay off my loans. That means I will be paying these loans until I am in my fifties. My children (who are not even a spark in my eye at this point) will likely be in college as I am making my final loan payments.

I know I borrowed that money. I know I have to pay it back. But I just don't see how. What's worse? The market is so much worse for lawyers (and law students) now. At the very least, I have a job. I have coworkers who make my job enjoyable. My work is different every day, which I love. I have health insurance. But my office is on a raise freeze. No cost of living. No experience-appropriate bump. Nada. Zilch. I get nothing.

How am I supposed to save for my future when I know that I will have these loans hanging over my head for over two decades? Am I supposed to get a part-time job because the job I got (for which I borrowed over $100,000 to work THIS JOB) does not pay for my loans and afford room in my budget for savings? I just don't know.

This loan forgiveness plan makes sense. It would ease not only my burden, but also the burdens of thousands of similarly-situated lawyers (or graduate program-educated professionals). So sign it. Or don't. Maybe you'll accuse me of being an idiot for borrowing the money. Perhaps you will chalk it up to a bad investment and tell me to just deal with the repercussions of such. But I think many of my fellow classmates and those graduating in the subsequent years might agree with me.


  1. I'm facing the same issues with my vet school loans. between my husband and i, we have roughly 300,000 in student loans. our starting salary is 50,000. the cost of education is astronomical, and i don't know about the law profession, but the cost of veterinary education is rising, while the salaries haven't risen to match.

    what a depressing situation...

  2. Agree 100% with this. It's so sad that so many attorneys are either unemployed, or have a starting salary of less than $50K. How are we supposed to pay $100K+ in loans when we are making that little. I'm sure it makes me sound like a spoiled brat to say $50K is not a good living, but when people told you that you would make $90K to start, it's a bit of a let-down. I have always prided myself on remaining debt-free; no credit card debt, no financing of things, but I can no longer say that! I've got more debt than people who have borrowed to the hilt. Unfortunately, I have this sinking feeling that, though they might forgive some loans, they aren't going to forgive graduate loans. Afterall, we are all going to rich EVENTUALLY. :-/ Right? Right, anyone?

  3. Law student, eh? Started thinking about that future job yet? May I make a suggestion? Check out JD Match in between the papers and exams. I work with JD Match and it’s a great step for any law student looking for an AmLaw firm job and a little weight off their shoulders. http://bit.ly/xoG2lx

  4. Anonymous is a dumbass. Stupid spammers.

    I signed the petition. I only have a BS and am facing $20K in student loans. The amount owed has only decreased 2K since graduation (in 2002!). It seems ridiculous to punish people for wanting to educate themselves

  5. Pricey loans can be prevented with the use of payday loans. One just has to be very sure in dealing with a loan service provider to avoid getting into a lot of problems during repayments.