Public Defenders: Don’t Cap Student Loan Forgiveness


A White House proposal to cap payments for those participating in the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program could mean fewer young attorneys will choose to work as public defenders, according to a survey by the National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA), an advocacy group.

The PSLF forgives federal student loan balances on which a borrower has paid 10 percent of her income while working in public service for 10 years, but President Barack Obama included as part of his 2015 budget proposal capping PSLF forgiveness at $57,000. Some in Congress would eliminate the program entirely, according to the NLADA.

The NLADA surveyed 2,007 public interest attorneys between December 2, 2014 and January 13, 2015 about how the proposed cap would affect their career decisions.

For our clients, having an attorney can mean the difference between whether they will be sleeping on the street or not. I hope that the PSLF program can continue to help make doing public interest work possible for those of us who come from less affluent families,” one respondent wrote in the anonymous survey.

About half of all respondents said they would not have taken their current position if a cap was in place, opting instead for a higher paying job. Seven in 10 respondents listed PSLF among the reasons they took their current job.

“[My wife and I] are renting our one-bedroom apartment out for share through AirBnB, and I am driving nights and weekend for Uber and Lyft, just to make ends meet. The PSLF program is all that gives me hope,” another anonymous attorney wrote in the survey.

More than a quarter of respondents to the survey carry federal student loan balances of $175,000 or more, according to the survey.

Read the full report HERE.

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