Duke's Loan Repayment Assistance Program was enhanced in April 2010. The program description is below. Members of the graduating classes of 2012 and earlier may choose to request assistance through the current plan, or may apply for the plan that existed before April 2010. Details about the earlier plan are available here.
Download the Loan Repayment Assistance Program Application (PDF).
Increasing numbers of Duke law students incur significant debt to finance their Law School education. This debt sometimes causes students to select employment based on financial necessity rather than genuine interest. To help students who want to secure employment in low-paying public interest and government jobs, the Faculty has adopted a Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP). The Program has two goals: (1) to lessen the degree to which financing the cost of a legal education limits career options and (2) to encourage graduates to choose public interest careers.
Under LRAP, the Law School will make a loan to qualifying graduates to assist them with their law school federal loan repayments. If the graduates remain eligible throughout the year, the loans are fully forgivable at the end of the year in which they are made. As detailed below, Program participants must apply annually for loan repayment assistance and for forgiveness of the prior year's loan.
To qualify for LRAP, the legal services provided by graduates must be for or under the direction of a government unit or an organization described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and exempt from tax under section 501(a). Section 108(f) of the Code details the requirements for non-taxable forgiveness. LRAP participants are encouraged to consult with a tax advisor regarding the tax implications of these loans. Among other things, loan forgiveness payments should not normally be counted as part of gross income.
A graduate of Duke Law School receiving a J.D. degree is eligible for partial or full loan repayment assistance under LRAP if the following requirements are met:
- Minimum Loan Amount. LRAP funds are reserved for graduates who have incurred at least $20,000 of institutional debt while enrolled at Duke Law School for the purpose of financing their legal education.
Eligible Employment. The graduate must be engaged in full-time law or law-related public interest or government work that pays less than $75,000 per year, and must anticipate being so employed for a period of at least one year from the date of application. The categories and treatment of eligible employment are as follows:
- Tier 1 Eligible Employment is defined as "employment in the public interest." Included in Tier 1 Employment is full-time law and law-related work for public interest organizations and work on behalf of individuals who could not otherwise afford comparable legal services. Tier 1 Employment also includes work as prosecutors and public defenders. Persons in Tier 1 receive loan repayment assistance in accordance with the Program formula, subject to the availability of budgeted funds. If the funds are insufficient for all those eligible under Tier 1, loan repayment assistance will be provided on a pro rata basis in accordance with Part V below.
- Tier 2 Eligible Employment is defined as "public service employment." Public service employment is full-time law and law-related work on behalf of public entities including local and state governments, and the federal government, except that judicial clerkships are not eligible employment. Persons in Tier 2 receive loan repayment assistance in accordance with the Program formula to the degree that funds are available after all Tier 1 eligible persons have received all of the funds to which they are entitled under the formula. If the funds are insufficient for all those eligible under Tier 2, loan repayment assistance will be provided on a pro rata basis in accordance with Part VI below.
- Period of Eligibility. Graduates are eligible to receive loan repayment assistance during the ten-year period following graduation. Within the period of eligibility, LRAP participants may leave the Program and later re-apply based on newly acquired eligible employment. During the ten-year period, LRAP participants may also take a reasonable leave of absence from eligible employment as long as the leave is temporary and approved by the employer. Permitted leaves include employer-approved maternity leave, illness leave, and family sick leave. If LRAP participants cease making loan payments during a temporary leave of absence, they are required to leave the Program and re-apply when loan payments and eligible employment are resumed.
- Lifetime Loan Forgiveness Cap. In order to allocate LRAP funds most effectively, assistance is limited to an amount that does not exceed the total amount borrowed in federal loans for law school enrollment, plus interest that accrues over the period of LRAP eligibility.
- Right of Petition. A graduate who believes that his or her claim has been improperly denied may petition the Faculty’s Admissions and Financial Aid Committee for loan repayment assistance under the Program.
- Calculating Loan Payments. Loan repayment assistance for federal loans shall be calculated based on the monthly amount owed under the federal Income Based Repayment (IBR) plan as set out in the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007, Pub. L. No. 110-84, § 203, 121 Stat. 784, 792-95 (2007).
- Income Figure. Loan repayment assistance is based on the Graduate's calculated income figure. The income figure includes all annual income, whether taxable or not, and is adjusted to account for marital status and/or dependents.
- Base Amount for Full Assistance. If the Graduate's income figure is $60,000 or less, he/she will be entitled to full loan repayment assistance in the form of 100% coverage of monthly loan payments in the Income Based Repayment plan, subject to the availability of funds budgeted for this Program. The level of assistance may be reduced for graduates who report assets and/or the in-kind provision of rent and food while living on a military base.
- Income above the Base. If the Graduate's income figure exceeds $60,000 but is less than $75,000, he/she will be entitled to partial loan repayment assistance in the form of partial coverage of monthly loan payments in the IBR plan, subject to the availability of funds budgeted for this Program. The level of assistance may be reduced for graduates who report assets and/or the in-kind provision of rent and food while living on a military base.
IV. Application and Grant Disbursement Procedures
- Application and Disbursement Procedure. LRAP disbursements are made twice a year, in January and July. Initial eligibility requires timely submission of an application and all necessary supporting materials no later than June 1st for the July disbursement and December 1st for the January disbursement. Applications received after the deadline will be considered for the following six-month repayment period. No matter when a graduate enters the Program, the re-application is due by June 1st of each year. By the following December 1st, the graduate must either re-apply or certify that his/her data has not changed since the June application.
- Application Forms and Information. Applications must be made on the form provided by/available from the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid. Completed applications must include the supporting information and items specified on the application form.
- The Law School’s Use of the Applicant’s Information. The information on the application form will be used by the Law School both to determine eligibility and disbursements, and to verify the income and asset projections reported for participation during the previous year. Appropriate adjustments will be made if the actual information provided differs by more than 10% from the initial projections.
V. Program Administration
- Overall Responsibility for the Program. The Faculty’s Admissions and Financial Aid Committee will administer the Program in conjunction with the Associate Dean for Admissions and Financial Aid. The Dean of the Law School and the School’s Budget Director will be consulted regarding funding and administrative procedures. The Program will be administered in a manner consistent with applicable University policies.
Day-to-Day Responsibility for the Program. The Associate Dean for Admissions and Financial Aid has day-to-day authority to administer the Law School’s Program, including the authority to interpret the terms of the Policy to ensure that it is implemented as intended by the Faculty.
- The Associate Dean may inquire into any irregularities that s/he observes and ask the graduate to produce documentation or explanations of particular claims and figures. In consultation with the Faculty’s Admission and Financial Aid Committee, the Associate Dean may exclude questionable claims and figures from the graduate’s application. If it is discovered that a graduate knowingly gave misinformation or excluded relevant information on the application, the graduate may be excluded from the Program.
- In consultation with the Faculty’s Admissions and Financial Aid Committee, the Associate Dean has authority to approve a different review procedure for any graduate for whom a requirement of the Program is excessively burdensome.
VI. Duke Law School's Annual Financial Obligation
Beginning with the 1997/1998 fiscal year, the Law School will provide $150,000 in annual funding for the Program. An additional $10,000 will be added in each succeeding year. In the event that the level of participation in the Program would cause costs to exceed the budgeted funds in any given year, payments to participants will be reduced on a pro rata basis to meet that limit. If the level of participation in the Program or any of its terms would cause the budget to be underspent in any given year, the excess funds will roll over and be added to the following year’s allocation.