Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) for Public Interest Lawyers

Columbia Law School offers a Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) for students interested in becoming public interest lawyers. It is among the most generous in the country to ensure that law school debt does not prevent graduates from entering the public interest sector.

LRAP benefits are loans, which are used to repay Law School debt. LRAP loans are gradually forgiven when graduates remain in public interest employment for more than three years.

Participants have the option of electing the traditional Columbia Law School LRAP, or a program that combines Columbia’s LRAP with the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program. For detailed information about the programs, please refer to the Columbia Law School Loan Repayment Assistance Program description, paying particular attention to the “Combining LRAP with the Federal Program” section.

Columbia Law School is committed to the financial security of our public interest and public service LRAP participants. At this time, we are continuing to review and process LRAP applications in order to provide eligible benefit payments to LRAP participants. Please review the following LRAP COVID-19 FAQ regarding questions that might arise during this unprecedented time.

As always, you are encouraged to contact the Financial Aid Office ([email protected]) with any questions and concerns regarding LRAP. Since we are working remotely, we ask for your patience and understanding as we reply to your LRAP inquiries.

My loan payments are suspended, so am I required to continue to make my payments?

In most cases, participants currently have been provided LRAP benefits to make their educational loan payments through July 2020. As such, there is an expectation that participants will continue to make their payments, as their circumstances allow. Continuing to make payments during the suspension will ensure that your educational loans will be paid in accordance with your original loan repayment schedule. However, if you are experiencing a financial hardship, please notify the Financial Aid Office ([email protected]) and we will certainly review your situation to provide guidance.

I have been furloughed or laid off from my LRAP eligible position. What should I do?

LRAP has provisions for this situation. Participants are eligible to apply for a deferment from LRAP. Please see the following section regarding Leaves and Deferments from the LRAP description, which can be found online (www.law.columbia.edu/financial-aid/lrap-public-interest-lawyers).

Leaves and Deferments

A participant in the Program may request a leave or deferment of up to two years for specific purposes. Participants must submit a written request to the Financial Aid Office stating reasons for deferment. Those leaving public interest work for private sector employment do not qualify for deferments, and will be required to begin repayment on their LRAP loans. Participants granted a deferment from the Program will not be eligible for benefits during the deferment period. However, interest will not accrue on the LRAP loan during an approved deferment period. If the participant does not return to the Program after two years, the LRAP loans will become payable to the extent not forgiven.

To apply for a deferment, complete and electronically return Page 1 of the LRAP application so we have your updated contact information. Also, please include a brief written statement requesting a deferment and the reason.

How does the federal income tax filing deadline extension affect the processing and disbursement of the second LRAP disbursement that is typically received at the end of July?

We are postponing the requirement to submit a copy of your 2019 federal income tax return before the second LRAP disbursement will be processed. We will be processing all second LRAP disbursements with the expectation that they will be issued towards the end of July 2020. For the upcoming LRAP reapplication cycle, participants will be required to submit a copy of their 2019 federal income tax returns for income verification with their renewal application materials in November 2020. Any necessary adjustments based on the previous year’s income, will be made to the first LRAP disbursement of 2021. Of course, if you are able to complete and file your 2019 federal income tax return prior to the beginning of July, please feel free to submit a copy to Financial Aid Office electronically by June 15. However, you are not required to do so until November.

Several Enhanced LRAP Fellowships have been established at Columbia Law School, and are awarded to students who have demonstrated dedication to and exceptional promise for leadership in public interest law. These fellowships are designed to supplement the benefits of LRAP, and can cover as much as 100% of eligible debt service for loans borrowed up to the cost of Law School tuition for fellows whose annual income does not exceed $100,000. Fellows are selected at graduation. Please contact the Social Justice Initiatives Office for more information.

Please feel free to contact our LRAP Administrator, Ms. Seandell James (212-854-1245), or Christina Ramirez (212-854-5651), Financial Aid Officer, by email or phone for questions related to LRAP.

Columbia Law School always attempts to ensure that, to the extent possible, changes in the coverage and policies of the Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) do not prejudice the interests of graduates who made fundamental decisions in reliance on the basic features of the program at the time they entered the Law School. Applicants should be aware that other factors, including fiscal constraints and the changing needs of the legal community, also will be considered in determining the design and administration of the program over the years.  Eligibility and the extent of support available under the program will be determined at the time a graduate applies to the program, in accordance with the rules and policies then applicable.

Contact Us

Ms. Seandell James

LRAP Administrator