ABA Journal, Would an Overhaul of Federal Student-loan Programs Help Bring Down Law School Tuition?:
Could reforming the federal student-loan program be a way to halt the skyrocketing cost of attending law school? At the 2018 ABA Midyear Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, the American Bar Foundation gathered a panel together to discuss the issue in The Perennial (and Stubborn) Challenge of Cost, Affordability and Access in Legal Education: Has it Finally Hit the Fan?
“If I have to put the blame for the title of this panel on any one place, I would put it on these student loan programs and the fact that they are basically unregulated, really, in terms of the amount,” said Barry Currier, the ABA’s managing director of accreditation and legal education.
“The students can borrow as much money through those programs as they want,” Currier said. “So if Harvard Law School or New England Law School said, ‘Tuition at our school next year is $200,000, and living expenses are $50,000,’ the federal government wouldn’t say, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me!’ They would say, ‘Where can we send that check for $250,000?’” ...
Currier and Stephen Daniels, a senior research professor at the American Bar Foundation, both drew attention to a current bill that would impact the federal student-loan program and potentially cause havoc for law schools and law students. HR 4508, the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success and Prosperity through Education Reform Act was introduced in the House of Representatives in December.
“That bill, as currently written, eliminates the loan forgiveness programs that are now in effect, and it puts a cap on student borrowing for graduate and professional education of $28,500 a year,” Currier said. “And I venture to say that if a cap of $28,500 per year were put on law school borrowing through the federal student-loan programs, one of two things would happen: A lot of students would then not go to law school because they couldn’t afford it. Or the interest rate they would have to borrow on the private loan that they would have to take out to supplement that would be at a rate of interest that would make it really difficult to justify the decision to go to law school.”
Even if passed by the House, it’s unclear how the Senate would respond to the PROSPER Act, Currier said. “So whether there will be a cap, and if there is a cap, what the cap will be, is at this point unknown. But for law schools at this point in time, this is a very serious issue.”