Ness-Blatt Loan Repayment Assistance Program
During the fiscal years 2008 to 2010, the Bar Foundation was able to forgive upwards of $430,000 in student loan debt for civil legal aid attorneys in South Carolina. Funds were made available through the Ness-Blatt Loan Repayment Assistance program.
The Foundation’s LRAP name honors the public service commitment exemplified by Chief Justice Julius “Bubba” Ness and Speaker Sol Blatt.
The burden of debt that faces lawyers working in the civil legal aid arena is staggering:
- national average debt of $80,000
- Median educational debt is $61,000 to $75,000
- Highest amount of debt upwards of $169,000
- Aggregate debt of all 2008 applicants was $2.29 million dollars; averaging approximately $82,000 per individual
LRAP assistance is considered a forgivable loan. To have the loan forgiven, a participant shall complete a year of employment with a qualifying employer and make educational debt payments (interest and/or principal) that equal at least the amount of Foundation and other LRAP assistance received during the award year. In forgiving the awards for years of service at the organization, the Foundation is hopeful that more hard-working and dedicated legal services lawyers will be able to remain in the legal services arena.
There are currently no funds available through the Ness-Blatt LRAP program. The Foundation has worked with its grantees to develop a supplemental loan repayment program to continue its work with recruitment and retention of civil legal aid attorneys.