Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Student Loans Taking the Lead in Election Debates

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Early summer is usually the designated time of year to get down to student loan business on Capitol Hill, attempting to beat whatever impending change will go into effect on July 1st.  This year the beginning of classes also stirred up more on the student loan debate.
Senator Elizabeth Warren’s bill, the Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act, would have amended the Higher Education Act of 1965 to provide for the refinancing of certain Federal student loans.  The change would’ve allowed those with loans acquired before 2010 to refinance to an interest rate below four percent.  Additionally, the funding was designed to implement the “Buffet Rule,” which basically would’ve subsidized a student loan repayment $1 a day (saving the average debtor $2,000 over the life of the loan) by raising taxes on those who make more than $1 million annually.  Opponents disagreed with this funding method as well as with freezing interest rates for past students while rates on current/new loans would continue to rise.  Other issues included allowing private loans to be refinanced as federal loans.  The bill was killed due to a failed vote for cloture (cloture deals with filibustering) in June and again on September 16th.
Also brought to the table this summer and is awaiting action within the Senate Finance Committee is the Dynamic Repayment Act of 2014 spearheaded by a bipartisan team – Senators Warner and Rubio.  This bill would create an income contingent repayment, providing stronger protections for borrowers, encourage responsible borrowing, and save taxpayer dollars.  The stark contrast from Warren’s bill is that instead of letting borrowers off the hook for the full amount of their payment, it ensures borrowers will make their full payment by automatically deducting ten percent of a graduate’s paycheck with a $10,000 annual exemption.  Opponents argue that this automatic deduction could stretch already thin paychecks even thinner.
Some speculate that proposed legislation such as these will continue to be moved throughout the fall because many desire to have the issue pushed to the forefront of the election.  Considering the looming state of the student loan debt crisis, this topic will likely be heavily debated regardless of these bills’ statuses. 
Will what the candidates say specifically on student loans sway how you will vote this upcoming election?

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Law Students Allowed to Work More Hours…and Get Paid

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In an effort to make law school a more practical experience for law students in order to better prepare them for the job market, the American Bar Association (ABA) recently amended their accreditation standards, eliminating the cap on student work hours. 
Until this change, there was a hard bar on the amount of hours students could work, limiting students to no more than twenty hours per week.  The change, which is said to have no reason preventing it from becoming effective immediately, wipes out the bar altogether.  However, the deletion was interpreted to allow schools to adopt their own limitations on student employment hours – see what your school allows.
In addition to employment hours, schools are also required to increase their experiential learning requirements (i.e. clinics, externships, or simulations) from one credit hour to six.  This change will allow students fewer hours in the classroom and more time putting what they learn to practice.
In order to keep their accreditation, schools will be more closely reviewed on their output, meaning bar exam results and employment rates, instead of their input like faculty-to-student ratios and the number of books in the library.  In light of the recession and with abundant online information and online course availability, those old factors shouldn’t have been considered much anyway.
Speaking of online classes, the ABA also increased the amount of online credits permitted from 12 to 15 hours, and these can be taken all in one semester instead of only four credit hours per semester.
Gearing the law school education to a more practical approach rather than theory-based is long overdue.  Students will be more prepared for the job market and have a better chance to compete when employers are requiring more experience from entry-level attorneys.
To read about other ABA accreditation changes, click here.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

5 Free and Easy Ways to Find Scholarships

Roughly 80% of law students rely on loans to finance their education.  While it might be faster to fill out a FASFA or loan application form, paying the debt owed can take decades!  For a few minutes more and thousands of dollars less, you are likely to qualify for dozens of scholarships.  Here, are a few easy and free ways to find plenty of scholarships to pay for your education.
  1. Twitter.  Yes, believe it or not there are many ways to find out about scholarships on the social media giant.  Perform searches with the hashtag #Scholarships for instance to find companies and agencies offering financial assistance.  Follow leaders in student debt, financial aid, and scholarship conversations.  For instance, follow me at @JLMaxey for my Scholarship Alert tweets specifically geared toward law school scholarships. 
  2. Google Alerts.  Have the scholarship notifications come to you.  Set up a Google Alert with keywords to find out the latest information on scholarships.  You can make it as general or as specific as you’d like.  Additionally, you can have the alerts sent as quickly as any matches occur or rounded into a weekly batch.  Don’t know how to set up a Google Alert?  Find out HERE. 
  3. Scholarship Search Engines.  There are many scholarship search engines available on the web.  These websites help wade through the sea of scholarships available so you only view the ones for which you qualify, saving you tons of time!  Some great ones include Careeronestop,, bigfuture, and fastweb. Make sure to avoid any search engines who charge fees or ask for private information.
  4. Ed.Gov. This website offers information on scholarships and grants provided by each state, including some federally supported grants and scholarships.  Select the state in which you live to see what’s available. 
  5. University Website.  Visit the main page of your school’s main website or financial aid website for lists of school-sponsored scholarship information. 
Note:  Again, watch out for scams with some scholarship offers.  Be leery of anything requiring payment or private information.  

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