The University of Virginia School of Law is expanding its loan forgiveness program this year so that more graduates will be eligible for greater benefits.

The Virginia Loan Forgiveness Program will now help repay the loans of all graduates earning less than $100,000 annually, up from $85,000. Participants in the program who earn less than $80,000 annually (previously $65,000) will receive benefits covering 100% of their qualifying law school loans. Those earning between $80,000 and $100,000 will receive prorated benefits based on income.

“We are grateful for the alumni support making this expansion possible,” Dean Risa Goluboff said. “Our students go on to work as prosecutors, public defenders, in nonprofits and legal aid organizations, and in federal, state and local governments. This increased funding for loan forgiveness will continue to make those careers possible, while also supporting graduates who strike out on their own as solo practitioners or pursue practice experiences that are less remunerative or uncertain — like working in-house for a startup.”

Though the expansion will in practice mostly affect graduates working in public interest roles, it will also provide relief to graduates working in the private sector. The school is simplifying the requirements to participate in the program by allowing any kind of employment to qualify, so long as legal skills are required for the role. With the median and 25th percentile private-sector salaries both at $215,000 for the Class of 2022, in effect the program will continue primarily to support alumni working in public service.

Graduates entering qualifying employment within two years of graduation or completing a clerkship are eligible for the program.

“By removing financial barriers to careers in public service, we hope this change empowers students taking on graduate school loans to pursue any career they wish, with substantial support from the Law School,” said Assistant Dean for Public Service Leah Gould, who serves as director of the Mortimer Caplin Public Service Center. “Our students have more options with more financial support than ever.”

The expansion is made possible by alumni and other donors, including Stephen T. Yandle ’72 and Martha Anne Yandle, and the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation.

The expansion of the loan forgiveness program builds upon increases in the Law School’s funding for public service over the past several years. In the summer of 2016, the Law School began guaranteeing funding for qualifying students working in public service jobs over the summer. Since then, the amount of summer grants has grown from $514,979 to more than $800,000, with 167 students earning grants in 2022. The Law School last year began fully shouldering the costs of the grants through funding from alumni and other donors. Funds raised by the Public Interest Law Association, a student organization that began the grant program, now go toward the PILA+ program, which distributed an additional $40,000 to students living in areas with higher costs of living.

The number of Law School summer fellowships earmarked for public service has also grown in recent years, with new additions to the longstanding Linda Fairstein Public Service Fellowships including the Katherine and David deWilde ’67 Public Interest Summer Fellowships, the Democracy Summer Fellowships and the Women’s Health Summer Fellowships. In 2017, the school created the Virginia Public Service Scholarships — full-tuition scholarships with flagship endowment funds from Tim ’83 and Lynne Palmer, Dave Burke ’93, and Ted ’92 and Keryn Mathas in honor of former professor Bill Stuntz ’84. Twelve students have received the award.

Students aiming for public interest careers also benefit from an expanded menu of clinical offerings, now at 24, and a recently added January term course focused on researching and writing postgraduate fellowship proposals, which are needed to apply for Skadden or Equal Justice Works fellowships.

On top of these changes, the Law School in the past few years has increased support for students’ career interests by hiring additional counselors, offering stipends to students traveling to interview for public service jobs, and establishing the Shaping Justice conference and awards to honor the work of alumni serving in public interest careers. The event also provides networking opportunities for students.

“Public service is a critical part of our mission as a law school generally and a public law school in particular,” Goluboff said. “The University of Virginia has always educated students for service, and we are proud to continue to expand the ways we support our graduates in this vital career path.”

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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