PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION RESOLUTION OPPOSING H.R. 4508, THE “PROSPER” ACT

WHEREAS, the Philadelphia Bar Association has long been concerned about the staggering amount of student loan debt that burdens law school graduates and adversely affects their financial ability to enter and remain in public service legal careers;

WHEREAS, 80 percent of law students take out student loans to attend law school and, in addition to incurring an average of $30,000 in undergraduate debt, graduates of public law schools further incur an average of $88,000 in loan debt and graduates of private law schools further incur an average of $122,000 in loan debt;

WHEREAS, in 2003, the American Bar Association Commission on Loan Repayment and Forgiveness issued a comprehensive report which documented that public service legal salaries have not kept pace with student loan debt or private sector salaries, and that high student loan debt bars many law school graduates from pursuing public service careers;

WHEREAS, the ABA report recommended that loan repayment assistance programs should be created by the federal government, states, and law schools to enable law school graduates to take and remain in public service legal jobs;

WHEREAS, the Philadelphia Bar Association has supported legislation that would provide loan forgiveness and repayment assistance to public service attorneys, including a 2004 resolution in support of the federal Prosecutors and Defenders Incentive Act and a 2007 resolution in support of the state Public Service Lawyers Loan Repayment Assistance Act;

WHEREAS, in 2007, President George W. Bush and a bipartisan Congress created the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program to enable public sector employers to attract and retain skilled professionals, including lawyers, by allowing public service employees to earn forgiveness of the balance of their federal loans after at least ten years at a qualifying employer and 120 months of paying at least ten percent of their income on an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan;

WHEREAS, PSLF helps individuals with significant student loan debt to afford lower paying jobs as public defenders, prosecutors, civil legal aid attorneys, court personnel and other public service occupations, ensuring that Americans have access to essential legal services;

WHEREAS, 2017 National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA) survey report of employee and employer participants in PSLF determined that PSLF has significantly enhanced access to justice by improving both the quality and availability of legal representation for low-income Americans and that the elimination of PSLF would harm our communities;

WHEREAS, the NLADA survey report also found that 81 percent of employees who were aware of PSLF at the time they took their current job reported having been significantly influenced by the program’s promise, with 51 percent indicating they were not likely or certain not to have taken their positions had PSLF not existed; and 71 percent of top executives at participating employers considered PSLF to be a highly important tool for retaining experienced staff and almost two thirds believed it is important for attracting new hires;

WHEREAS, the NLADA survey report found that 87 percent of employees indicated that qualification for PSLF would make them much more likely to accept a particular opportunity in the future, and more than half would be very certain or likely to leave their jobs if PSLF did not exist;

WHEREAS, the first group of borrowers became eligible for the loan forgiveness component of PSLF in 2017;

WHEREAS, President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget blueprint includes a proposal to eliminate PSLF;

WHEREAS, in December, 2017, the United States House of Representatives advanced a Higher Education Act reauthorization bill out of the Committee on Education and the Workforce and this pending legislation, House Resolution 4508, known as the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity Through Education Reform Act (“PROSPER” Act) would eliminate PSLF;

WHEREAS, the “PROSPER” Act would also eliminate IDR plans and would cap federal graduate school loans at $28,000 annually, which would dissuade many diverse and low income students from pursuing a legal education, including those interested in a public service career1;

WHEREAS, on April 11, 2018, the leadership of the American Bar Association, the Philadelphia Bar Association and 47 other state and local bar associations gathered in Washington, D.C. to urge members of Congress to oppose the elimination of the PSLF program.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Philadelphia Bar Association opposes H. R. 4508 or any similar legislation that would eliminate or dismantle the PSLF program and income-driven repayment plans, or that would limit access to federal graduate loans to an amount less than the full cost of graduate education;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Chancellor, or his or her designee, shall communicate the Philadelphia Bar Association’s position on H.R. 4508, or on any similar legislation, to the President, members of Congress, the legal profession, the media, and the public, and to take such other action as may be necessary to effectuate this resolution.

PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION
BOARD OF GOVERNORS
ADOPTED: May 30, 2018

1 See article written by Karen Sloan, Proposed Student Loan Cap Could Devastate Law Schools, published by the National Law Journal on April 18, 2018.