New Loan Forgiveness Law Aids Public Interest Lawyers

When President George Bush signed into law the College Cost Reduction and Access Act on Sept. 27, he made it easier for law students to pursue careers in public interest law. And he made Professor Emeritus Peter Winograd very happy.

A provision of the new law will greatly reduce the standard monthly payment on a federal education loan, and after 10 years of steady payments and steady public interest work, the loan's remaining balance will be forgiven altogether.

"Our hope is that a graduate who spends 10 years in a low-paying public interest job will stay with it after the loan is forgiven," says Winograd, who was one of the key supporters to move the bill through Congress. "This now makes it possible for people with their hearts set on public interest employment to be financially able to undertake such work."

Winograd, along with Philip Schrag, a law professor at Georgetown University, helped draft the bill and then lobbied for it as leaders of the Government Relations and Student Financial Aid Committee of the American Bar Association's section of Legal Education and Admission to the Bar. Winograd chaired the committee and Schrag was vice chair. They and others spent nearly five years working on the bill.

The new law applies to all graduates, including lawyers who work in government, in public interest law services or for a 501(c)(3) corporation. The law will go into effect completely by July 1, 2009, but recent qualifying graduates can begin their 10-year countdown on Oct. 1, 2007. Details are yet to be worked out on how to implement the new law, but for an in-depth look into the public interest loan forgiveness portion, see Professor Schrag's recent article, which will be published in the Hofstra Law Review.