Loan Repayment Assistance Program

What is a loan repayment assistance program (LRAP)?
In response to the issue of staggeringly high debt loads, a number of law schools have developed solutions for relieving the debt burden of law graduates who enter public interest careers, including loan repayment assistance programs (LRAPs). Please visit the homepage of the University of Washington LRAP for more information.

Why does UW have an LRAP?
Many of today's UW Law School students will graduate owing in excess of $70,000 in undergraduate and law school loans. For graduates following the standard 10-year repayment schedule, this results in monthly payments of almost $1000 for 10 years following graduation.

Graduates who aspire to pursue public service careers are faced with unique challenges, as they attempt to secure the means to meet their monthly educational loan obligations while facing the prospect of earning traditionally lower salaries. With the median starting public interest salary under $40,000 (compared to $90,000 at private firms) these huge debts bar most graduates from pursuing public service legal jobs. Since 1975, the share of new lawyers who entered public-interest fields has declined from 5.4 % to 2.9 %. A recent study found that 73.5% of UW Law School students are less inclined to seek a public interest or government position due to their educational debt load. Among those graduates who do take such positions, many - when faced with major life decisions such as starting a family - are forced to leave after two to three years of employment.

Public interest employers are having trouble finding new attorneys. According to a recent American Bar Association Study, 68% of public interest employers have difficulty recruiting the attorneys they need and 62% have difficulties retaining experienced attorneys. About 90% of these employers cite both low salaries and educational debt as the largest factors contributing to these problems.

Access to civil legal aid is a very real problem in Washington State. On a statewide basis about 13.2 percent of Washington State's Census-based population is low-income. More than three-quarters of all low-income households in Washington experience at least one civil legal problem each year. Low-income people face more than 85 percent of their legal problems without help from an attorney.

When law graduates are unable to pursue public service legal careers due to high educational debt burdens, the consequences to society and the profession are significant. The University of Washington School of Law's Public Interest Law Association believes that an LRAP is the best way to address the financial needs of graduates and the legal needs of the State.