Loan Repayment Assistance Program Helping Alums Pursue Public Interest Careers

For law students interested in pursuing a career in public service, Washington University School of Law’s Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) can be a viable option for managing debt. Since its creation in 2002, some 172 graduates have taken advantage of the program.

Washington University’s LRAP has its roots in a commitment by alumnus Melvin Brown, JD ’61. Brown pledged $750,000 to establish a program that would attract students interested in public service to the law school. Under the program, students who go to work for 501(c)(3) nonprofits are eligible for loan repayment assistance ranging from 25 percent to 100 percent, depending on the graduate’s adjusted gross income.

In 2010, the law school implemented a revised LRAP program that dovetailed with the federal government’s Income Based Repayment (IBR) program, which lowers loan payments for students who work in the public sector after graduating.

For Katie Crank, JD/MSW ’11, LRAP has allowed her to pursue a career combatting domestic violence. Crank serves as coordinator of Domestic Violence Programs at the Center for Court Innovation in New York City. She helps plan, implement, and evaluate domestic violence courts in the United States and around the world. In addition, she works with trafficking and prostitution diversion courts both locally and nationally, has received training in trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, and volunteers on an email hotline through Womenslaw.org.

Crank says she decided on her career focus after volunteering at a domestic violence center as an undergraduate and interning at a domestic violence court in St. Louis. She selected Washington University School of Law in part because she knew LRAP could be a huge benefit to her and began her financial planning right away.

“In my first year, I attended the loan repayment session. I wanted to know as much as possible about LRAP early on, including how it would work in practice,” Crank says. “While the application process was daunting when I graduated, Dean Elizabeth Walsh and JoAnn Eckrich, director of financial aid, helped me put things into perspective.”

Currently, LRAP helps cover about 75 percent of Crank’s loan payments. She also has made  some conscious lifestyle choices to afford living in New York City. “I did everything I could to cut costs, including giving up my car and moving to a less-trendy part of Brooklyn,” she says. “LRAP helped make the move to New York much more manageable for me.”

Another LRAP recipient, Raquel Frisardi, JD ’12, received a full scholarship to the law school, but took out student loans to help with living expenses. Once at law school, she became active with the Public Service Advisory Board, which honed her interests in public interest work.

After graduation, she began working as an assistant district attorney for Middlesex County, the largest county in Massachusetts. She enjoys the variety of her caseloads, which range from child pornography to assault, drug trafficking, drunk driving, and other offenses.

Frisardi says she applied for both LRAP and the IBR, which significantly decreased her monthly loan payments. Today, she estimates the combined aid programs effectively added another $10,000 a year to her income. Additionally, in 10 years, the remainder of her federal loan will be forgiven as long as sheremains in the public service sector for 10 years.

While applying for the aid programs required a lot of paperwork and documentation. Frisardi credits Eckrich with helping her navigate the process.

 “Working with JoAnn and my loan service provider was very productive,” she says. “Everybody was very willing to help.”