Harvard Law School Alumni Say the School’s Low Income Protection Plan Falls Short
Over 100 Harvard Law School alumni and current affiliates have signed an open letter criticizing the school’s Low Income Protection Plan (LIPP), The Harvard Crimson reports.
The program, which subsidizes loan repayments for graduates pursuing public interest jobs, has come under scrutiny in recent years from recipients who say the program falls short of sufficiently supporting graduates. Launched in 1978, LIPP aims to reduce the burden of student debt by subsidizing loan repayments for graduates pursuing government, public sector, academic, or other low-income jobs, according to The Harvard Crimson. LIPP participants who earn more than $55,000 per year are asked to contribute a percentage of their annual income toward monthly loan repayments and receive subsidies from Harvard to cover the rest.
THE REQUESTED CHANGES
The open letter, which is addressed to HLS Dean John F. Manning, proposes a number of key changes to LIPP that would “make it consistent with Harvard’s claim that it prioritizes financial independence for its student and alumni communities.”
One of those changes is a request for HLS to fully cover student loan payments for graduates earning a salary of $90,000 or less—an increase from the current salary threshold of $55,000. Additionally, the letter calls on HLS to “change how assets and cost-of-living are accounted for.” While LIPP currently accounts for assets, such as home value and retirement savings, the program does not account for costs such as health care expenses. Lastly, the letter also calls on HLS to “make spousal considerations fair. Currently, LIPP does not decrease a graduate’s payment amounts if they earn more than their spouse.
“While we hope HLS will act immediately to support public interest alumni in making the above improvements to LIPP, we expect an express commitment to do so by March 1, 2023,” the letter reads.
In an emailed response to the letter obtained by The Crimson, HLS Assistant Dean for Student Financial Services Natasha D. Onken said that the school “engages in a comprehensive and multifaceted planning process” each academic year when planning the budget.
“The perspectives you have shared, alongside many others, will be considered in the broader context noted above,” Onken writes. “As decisions are finalized regarding the school’s plans for next year and beyond, they will be shared directly with affected community members.”
Authors of the letter say their goal is to hold HLS accountable and to improve LIPP overall.
“Alumni are suffering with people moving wedding plans around because of their inability to meet their loan payments, or people staying in jobs that they are uncomfortable with or unsatisfied with because leaving would impact their loan situation,” Brendan Schneiderman, a 2021 HLS graduate and the primary author of the letter, says.
Sources: The Harvard Crimson, The Harvard Crimson
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