Sept. 20, 2007
Vol. 27 No. 1

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    Law School increasing loan forgiveness aid in public interest program

    By Julia Morse
    News Office

    Chicago Law School alumni who pursue careers in public interest will benefit from a recent expansion of the school’s loan forgiveness program.

    Alumni who choose professions as public defenders, pro bono attorneys, immigration attorneys or who are employed by certain government agencies, could receive up to $70,000 in loan repayment assistance, beginning with students in the Class of 2010.

    The James Hormel Public Interest Program, which began with the Class of 2007 with a gift from Hormel, initially provided a potential loan forgiveness total of $25,000—each graduate working in a qualifying job that paid a salary less than $50,000 was eligible for $5,000 a year for the five years following graduation.

    While the benefits have increased, the purpose of the program remains the same. It supports Chicago’s belief in the importance of public interest work, and the understanding that members of the alumni community who pursue those careers face a financial obstacle, as they are much less lucrative legal careers than other areas of law practice.

    “We produce great lawyers and we want those great lawyers to be able to choose work in public interest without being overly concerned about their educational debt,” said Ann Perry, Assistant Dean for Admissions in the Law School. “This opens up opportunities for students who choose these careers, and it is something that is uniquely available at Chicago. Expanding the loan forgiveness program shows the Law School’s commitment to public interest law.”

    Beginning with the Class of 2010, the Hormel Public Interest Program will provide a $10,000 annual stipend, if the alumna or alumnus is employed in a full-time public interest position that pays less than $72,000 a year. Those individuals who work in public interest for seven out of eight post-graduation years could potentially receive up to $70,000.

    Kristen Mercado, Student Services Fellow and Law School alumna, said the expansion of the loan forgiveness program would improve awareness of public interest law and possibly increase the number of students who choose to study the subject at Chicago.

    “This is a really wonderful thing for our students,” Mercado said. “I know it will make a really big difference—not only in the lives of our future alumni, but in the practice of public interest law.” Additional information about the Hormel Public Interest Program is available by sending e-mail to: hpip@law.uchicago.edu.