Harvard Law School announced an expansion to the Low Income Protection Plan, a debt-assistance program for alumni pursuing public interest careers.
LIPP will now provide complete relief from loan repayments for alumni earning less than $70,000 annually, an increase of $15,000 from the previous floor, the school announced March 9.
The change, which will take effect on July 1, comes after calls by alumni and students to improve LIPP, including a letter last month demanding the Law School make an “express commitment” to specific changes to the program by March 1.
Combined with a previous increase in the contribution floor from $48,000 to $55,000 last May, this most recent change will mean LIPP’s floor has risen 45 percent in the last two years.
In addition to changing LIPP, the Law School announced a new loan repayment option for alumni that would supplement the federal government’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness program — which erases student debt after 10 years of public service work — by allowing those in eligible jobs to earn $110,000 annually without owing loan payments.
Brendan Schneiderman, a 2021 HLS graduate and advocate for changes to LIPP, said the expansion will provide a “tremendous amount of relief.”
But Schneiderman added other issues with LIPP and financial aid raised by students and alumni have still not been addressed by the Law School.
“There was no mention whatsoever of the burden that international students have who are not eligible for federal loans oftentimes,” he said.
He also raised concerns about how LIPP considers spousal income and assets held by participants as part of aid calculations, points raised in the February open letter he co-authored.
HLS spokesperson Jeff Neal referred back to the Law School’s press release regarding the changes to the program in response to a request for comment.
Previously, Neal has pointed to the program’s consideration of “extenuating circumstances” when calculating aid. Peer institutions consider spousal income and assets, Neal has also noted.
Schneiderman said he expects the updates to LIPP to motivate students and alumni to advocate for further changes.
“Even people who were skeptical have now seen firsthand what the power of organizing really is,” he said. “And so I think as we continue to push for some of these other changes, the effort is only going to grow.”
When he first heard the announcement about LIPP’s expansion, Schneiderman said he was “overcome with gratitude for all the people who have stayed the course.”
“There are people who are not yet on LIPP but expect to be, and this is going to make their lives a lot easier too,” he said. “It’s a touching outcome.”