New LRAP Enhancements
Dean Gillian Lester shares updates about Columbia Law School’s Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP).
Columbia Law School’s Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) has long been a cornerstone of our strategy to reduce financial barriers for graduates who pursue careers that serve the public interest.
At multiple junctures over the past several years, we have taken proactive steps to enhance this core commitment—establishing innovative programs designed to bridge the transition between law school and public interest jobs, as well as expanding the range of benefits available to LRAP recipients and increasing the generosity of the program itself. As a result, we have cemented Columbia’s LRAP as one of the most generous of its kind in the nation.
Today, with a continuing recognition of the critical need for Columbia lawyers to work in the public interest to address the many challenges of our time, we are pleased to announce the most substantial increase in LRAP benefits in the Law School’s history.
The Law School is able to take this step, in part, by passing on to our LRAP recipients savings resulting from President Biden’s recently announced Student Debt Relief Plan. But, on top of passing on any savings from reductions in students’ debt load (and therefore the Law School’s LRAP obligations), we are committing to additional enhancements that go well beyond the value of any indirect benefits the Law School may realize.
Beginning in February 2023, the Law School will increase the generosity of our LRAP along four dimensions. Graduates entering LRAP for the first time, as well as participants who are already enrolled, all may be eligible to benefit from the following enhancements:
- We will now cover 100% of eligible loan payments for program participants with a calculated annual income of $70,000 per year or less. This is a $10,000 increase from the current level of $60,000, making Columbia’s the highest baseline income threshold among our peers.
- For participants enrolled in the combined Columbia LRAP and Federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF), we will now cover 100% of eligible income-driven repayment (IDR) payments for participants with an annual income of $110,000 per year or less, an increase from the current level of $100,000.
- Loans authorized by the Law School’s Financial Aid Office to cover room and board expenses will now be eligible for inclusion in the calculation of LRAP-eligible debt, even when the amount exceeds the Law School’s standard student budget.
- We will reduce the contribution expected of LRAP participants whose calculated annual income exceeds the income thresholds from 34.5% to 30% for all LRAP participants.
Combined, these enhancements represent the largest-ever increase in the generosity of our LRAP. To give an example of how an individual LRAP recipient might experience the change, under the current $60,000 threshold, a participant earning $72,000 per year is expected to make an annual contribution of $4,140 towards their federal student loan debt, with the Law School covering the balance of their payments. With the new enhancements, this same participant’s expected annual contribution will drop to $600. This is an increase of $3,540 in annual benefits, which, assuming a participant remains in LRAP for the full life of the program, would mean a cumulative additional benefit of $35,400 over ten years.
In addition, the Student Debt Relief Plan limits eligibility for debt forgiveness to those with outstanding federal loan balances on June 30, 2022. Borrowers who received loans after that date are not eligible. Our enhancements to Columbia’s LRAP, by contrast, are available to all current and prospective LRAP participants, regardless of the timing of their loan disbursement or current loan balance.
With these enhancements, Columbia Law firmly establishes our LRAP as the stand alone leader among our peers. Enabling students and graduates to pursue any path they wish in their legal careers—in part, by reducing economic obstacles to choosing public interest and public service paths—are core to our mission. These enhancements to our LRAP are only our most recent advance in achieving that shared ambition.
Dean and Lucy G. Moses Professor of Law