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School of Law revitalizes public interest initiative

$500K infusion doubles assistance fund for recent grads

LAW Dean ad interim Maureen O'Rourke talks to Charles Hunter (LAW'08) and Robin Pelkey (LAW'08) at the school's "welcome back" party Monday, September 19. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

Work in the public interest is a fulfilling career option for law students, but there is a major obstacle for some: the debt they face for their graduate education. To address this, the School of Law has launched a major initiative aimed at enabling more students to pursue such an endeavor.

On September 19 LAW Dean ad interim Maureen O’Rourke announced an infusion of more than $500,000 from the school to its Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP), which provides grants to LAW students choosing careers in public interest or government to help them repay loans. The contribution pushes the total amount of LRAP funds to $1 million.

 

“The Boston University School of Law has a strong tradition of commitment to public service,” said O’Rourke at a “welcome back” party for LAW students. “We recognize that many law graduates are finding it increasingly difficult to pursue public interest careers because salaries are insufficient to enable them to pay loans, in addition to covering their basic living expenses.”

O’Rourke pointed out that tuition at law schools across the country has soared over the past decade — as have salaries in the private sector. “However, salaries in the public sector haven’t,” she said, “and it’s really a shame when students can’t work in the public interest because they’re saddled with debt.”

At this increased level of funding — made possible by the generosity of LAW alumni — the LRAP will be able to provide between $30,000 and $45,000 in total grants yearly for graduates who have been out of law school between a year and 10 years. “Hopefully this will allow us to allow you to work in public interest jobs,” O’Rourke said.

Meira Russ (LAW’06), who is interested in children’s advocacy, says the LRAP campaign “demonstrates a commitment on the part of the school toward students such as myself — I enrolled in law school specifically to work in the public sector.”

Holly Lincoln (LAW’06) has taken out $112,000 in student loans. “I’m hoping to go into civil rights law when I graduate,” she says. “Eventually, when I have huge loan payments to make, I know it’s going to be tough if I don’t have a big salary.” She calls the LRAP fundraising initiative “a step in the right direction — you don’t have to convince law students to go into public service, you just have to convince them that it’s [financially] possible, and Dean O’Rourke and the law school will help make it possible for some students.”