Nearly 200 current and former Harvard Law School students signed a letter last week calling on the school to redistribute any savings it receives from President Joe Biden’s loan forgiveness program to former students in low-income jobs. remunerated.
The Biden administration unveiled a debt cancellation plan last month that will cancel loans for millions of American students. In a letter sent to law school dean John F. Manning ’82 on Sept. 6, HLS students and alumni said the Biden administration’s program could be “a massive boon to Harvard.”
Since 1978, the law school has sought to help graduates pursue lower-paying public service jobs through its Low Income Protection Plan. The program subsidizes annual loan repayment obligations based on income for graduates in low-paying industries.
According to the letter, the LIPP may see a decrease in expenses since it “will no longer need to provide repayment assistance for the $10,000/$20,000 of loans that will be forgiven” or the interest that would have been accrued by these loans.
The letter called on Harvard to “redirect” potential savings “to the community for which they were originally intended: students and alumni in debt” and “to make public how it expects Biden’s pardon plan to affect its financial results “.
The law school’s Office of Student Financial Services wrote in a response to the signatories of the letter that the school would consider the letter in its annual planning process, which “should begin in the coming weeks and end in spring”.
“Each academic year, Harvard Law School engages in a comprehensive and multi-faceted planning process for the coming year, through which data from a multitude of sources is considered,” said the response from the law school.
“This annual budget process is intended to ensure that all available resources are used to advance our school’s teaching, research and service mission; help students thrive in law school; and to give graduates the freedom to pursue the career options of their choice,” he added.
But the former students who wrote the letter said they felt the school’s response was insufficient.
“I think it was kind of a boilerplate, no-commitment response that highlights how little transparency there is in making these decisions,” said Beth S. Feldstein, an HLS alumna who co-wrote the letter.
The LIPP has long been the subject of criticism and calls for reform from HLS alumni and students. In May, the school announced it would increase the contribution scale used to calculate the amount of grant available to participants, marking the largest increase in the LIPP’s 45-year history.
But Brendan R. Schneiderman — a 2021 HLS graduate who co-wrote the letter and led previous petitions to reform the LIPP — said the program is not fulfilling its original mission.
“People have been really struggling and fighting for a few years,” he said. “And it looks like Harvard gets away with doing the bare minimum possible.”
HLS spokesman Jeff Neal wrote in an email that the law school invests “significant resources” in the LIPP and its financial aid program each year to make the school more accessible and enable graduates to pursue the career of their choice.
“Annual Low Income Protection Plan expenditures have doubled over the past decade and grown at more than twice the annual rate of the overall law school budget,” Neal wrote.
— Editor Ryan H. Doan-Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ryandoannguyen.
— Editor John N. Peña can be contacted at email@example.com.