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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