Duke's Loan Repayment Assistance Program was enhanced in fall 2014, details are below. Members of the graduating classes of 2012 and earlier may choose to request assistance through the current plan or may apply for the LRAP plan that existed before April 2010.
Duke Law has a long-standing tradition of supporting students and graduates who commit to public service careers. The Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) program greatly reduces the degree to which financing the cost of a legal education limits career options and opens the door to public service careers by providing a path for total loan forgiveness.
Under the plan, graduates who earn $60,000 or less could have all loan payments covered by LRAP during the entire 10-year period necessary to qualify for the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program, which forgives remaining loan debt after 10 years in a qualifying public service position. This means that a participant whose salary remains under $60,000 for 10 years could achieve total loan forgiveness with zero out-of-pocket cost. Graduates making between $60,000 and $75,000 are also invited to participate in LRAP, and receive generous assistance on a sliding scale.
I feel so lucky to be a public defender and I love my job. However, the financial realities of my job can be stressful. While it's priceless to be truly satisfied in your work, the support of LRAP allows me to move forward even when my salary stays the same. Not only will my loans be forgiven after ten years of public service, but LRAP helps me to pay them in the meantime. This means I can focus on my job and on enjoying life outside of work. Because of LRAP, I've been able to put money into my retirement accounts and buy a house since graduation. My colleagues who don't get LRAP often have a harder time achieving their financial goals. LRAP makes it possible for me to focus on my work and make progress in my personal life.
— Katie Claire Hoffmann, J.D./M.Ed '13
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.
Consistent with federal tax requirements, under LRAP, the Law School will make loans to qualifying graduates to assist them with their federal law school loan repayments. If the graduate remains 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 for loan repayment assistance and for forgiveness of the prior year's loans.
A graduate of Duke Law School is eligible for partial or full loan repayment assistance under LRAP if all of the following requirements are met:
- Juris Doctor and Bar Certification. LRAP funds are reserved for Juris Doctor graduates of the Law School whom the Dean’s Office could certify have the character and fitness necessary for bar membership.
- Minimum Loan Amount. LRAP funds are reserved for graduates who have incurred at least $20,000 of federal student loan debt while enrolled at Duke Law School for the purpose of financing their legal education.
- Maximum Salary. LRAP funds are reserved for graduates who earn less than $75,000 per year.
- Minimum Commitment. The graduate must be engaged in full-time paying work and must anticipate being so employed for a period of at least one year.
Eligible Employment. The categories and treatment of eligible employment are as follows:
Tier 1 Eligible Employment is “the practice of law in the public interest." To qualify for Tier 1, the graduate’s position must either:
Require a J.D. and involve the full-time provision of legal services to a public interest organization which meets the requirements of §501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and is exempt from tax under §501(a),or
- Be that of a United States federal, state, or local government prosecutor or public defender.
Tier 2 Eligible Employment is defined as "public service employment."
- To qualify for Tier 2, the position must require a J.D. and involve the full-time provision of legal services to a United States federal, state, or local government employer.
- Judicial clerkships other than permanent clerkships do not qualify for LRAP.
- Positions with Tier 1 and Tier 2 employers which do not require a J.D. or involve the full-time provision of legal services may be eligible employment if they generally require the graduate to use his or her legal training to a significant degree or are often held by members of the legal profession.
- Tier 1 Eligible Employment is “the practice of law in the public interest." To qualify for Tier 1, the graduate’s position must either:
- 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 parental leave, sick leave, and family medical 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.
LRAP’s eligibility requirements are designed to be consistent with federal tax requirements for non-taxable loan forgiveness. These requirements are detailed in part in Section 108(f) of the Internal Revenue Code. Among other things, LRAP payments normally should not be counted as gross income. LRAP participants should consult with a tax advisor regarding the tax implications of these loans.
Definitions of and explanations for essential eligibility terms and examples of qualifying and non-qualifying employment are contained in the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) associated with this Policy. Students, graduates, and their advisors should consult the FAQs and the Office of Financial Aid to determine whether particular employment may be LRAP-eligible.
- Calculating Loan Payments. Loan repayment assistance for federal loans shall be calculated based on the monthly amount owed under the 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 primarily 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.
- Effect of Tiers. In the unlikely event that the annual budget for LRAP is insufficient to provide full benefits to all eligible graduates, the Associate Dean for Admissions and Financial Aid will allocate funds on a pro rata basis first to graduates in Tier 1 employment and then to graduates in Tier 2 employment. Work that qualifies under Part II(E)(3) will be tiered on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the nexus between the nature of the job and the goals of the Program.
IV. Application Procedures
- Application Instructions, Forms, and procedure. Application instructions, forms, and procedures are available from the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid. To be considered complete, applications must include the supporting information and items specified on the application form.
- Discretion to Adopt Alternate Procedures. 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.
- Requests for Additional Information and Treatment of Questionable Claims. The Associate Dean for Admissions and Financial Aid may inquire into any irregularities that he/she observes on the application and accompanying information, and ask the graduate to produce additional 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.
- Right of Appeal. A graduate who believes that his or her claim has been improperly denied by the Associate Dean for Admissions and Financial Aid may appeal that decision to the Faculty’s Admissions and Financial Aid Committee.
- 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 more than minimally 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 Program will be administered in a manner consistent with applicable laws and University policies.
- Day-to-Day Responsibility for the Program. The Associate Dean for Admissions and Financial Aid has authority to administer the Program day-to-day, including the authority to make eligibility determinations and otherwise to interpret the terms of the Policy.
VI. Duke Law School's Financial Commitment to LRAP
The Duke Law community is deeply committed to its students and graduates who wish to pursue careers providing legal services in the public interest. LRAP is one of several Law School programs that reflect this commitment. LRAP is supported by a dedicated endowment established by faculty, alumni, and friends of the Law School. The Law School supplements distributions from the endowment as needed each year with the goal of funding 100% of eligible applicants.