Social law is victim of debt

February 16, 2007

The debt incurred by American law school students to pay escalating tuition fees is deterring them from work in social-service jobs, which pay lower salaries than private-sector jobs at high-priced law firms, writes Jon Marcus.

The debts of some graduates are so high that nearly half of what they could expect to earn a month in public-sector work would go towards repaying their loans, according to Equal Justice Works. In a report, the public-service organisation says that US law school graduates owe between $50,000 (Pounds ,000) and $80,000 in student loans, depending on whether they attended a lower-priced public or a higher-priced private university.

This deterred many from going into lower paid work specialising in social justice. The median starting salary paid by public-interest organisations is $38,000.

Heather Wells Jarvis, the author of the report, said that as a result, a recent graduate of a public law school faced loan repayments of about $630 a month, while a private school graduate had to pay $1,000 a month. The monthly take-home pay for social-service work was about $2,100 a month, leaving $1,500 or less for expenses, not enough to cover the rent for a one-bedroom apartment in many US cities.

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Universities in most nations are now obliged to prioritise graduate career prospects, but how it should be approached depends on your view of the meaning of education. Academics need to think that through much more clearly, says Tom Cutterham


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