An Open Letter From the Coalition to Improve LIPP

Dear Dean Manning,

We, the Coalition to Improve LIPP and the undersigned HLS student groups, are writing to urge you and the financial aid committee to enact changes to the Low Income Protection Plan to enable all Harvard Law School graduates to pursue the careers of their choosing.

Since the 1970s, LIPP has helped HLS graduates to pursue relatively lower-paying careers. As the average debt burden for an HLS student is now over $160,000, without LIPP, many students would be unable to consider pursuing relatively lower-paying careers. Because of LIPP, alumni may work for the government, nonprofit organizations or legal services organizations; ‘hang a shingle’ and start their own legal practice; and pursue varied other career paths. Many students choose to come to HLS because of the support that LIPP offers, and we are grateful that Harvard is committed to supporting students’ career choices.

Unfortunately, LIPP fails to meet the needs of too many alumni. For the past several months, the Coalition to Improve LIPP has spoken to alumni on LIPP, conducted research into loan repayment programs at peer law schools, and conducted a survey of the HLS student body. The Coalition has also met with SFS and OPIA to draft an alumni survey designed to learn more about how student debt affects graduates’ career choices and experiences in the workforce. While LIPP helps with the overall burden of student debt, we have heard over and over from alumni about how LIPP comes up short when graduates change jobs, start a family, save for retirement, or care for relatives in need.

Through a deliberative process, the Coalition has developed a list of recommended changes to LIPP policy that will empower HLS graduates of all backgrounds to pursue the careers of their choosing. These policies include:

  1. Improving LIPP’s participant contribution scale to address the financial strains that graduates face and bring LIPP in line with loan repayment programs at comparable law schools;
  2. Increasing transition time so that alumni on LIPP can move between jobs without fear of losing LIPP coverage;
  3. Improving LIPP’s family leave and dependent care programs to enable graduates to care for their families;
  4. Lifting the cap on eligible undergraduate borrowing so that students from working-class backgrounds, who face disproportionately high undergrad student debt burdens, can pursue their preferred careers;
  5. Lifting the cap on retirement asset protections to enable graduates to save for their futures.

You recently announced that the Financial Aid Committee would consider changes to LIPP. Attached are the Coalition’s proposals for specific changes, based on our research and conversations; we ask that HLS implement them. We look forward to your response; you can email us at lippcoalition@gmail.com.

Thank you,

Rachel Sandalow-Ash, President, Coalition to Improve LIPP
Suzanne Schlossberg, Vice President, Coalition to Improve LIPP
The Coalition to Improve LIPP

Supporting Harvard Law School Student Organizations:

  1. Student Government
  2. Women’s Law Association
  3. Black Law Students Association
  4. Asian Pacific American Law Students Association
  5. La Alianza
  6. First-Generation Professionals at HLS
  7. Native American Law Students Association
  8. South Asian Law Students Association
  9. Middle Eastern Law Students Association
  10. Jewish Law Students Association
  11. Lambda
  12. Queer and Trans People of Color
  13. Criminal Justice Institute
  14. Harvard Immigration Project
  15. Tenant Advocacy Project
  16. Prison Legal Assistance Project
  17. Mississippi Delta Project
  18. Environmental Law Society
  19. Food Law Society
  20. Harvard Health Law Society
  21. Labor and Employment Action Project
  22. HLS Urbanists
  23. American Civil Liberties Union
  24. American Constitution Society
  25. National Lawyers Guild
  26. Advocates for Education
  27. Homelessness Coalition
  28. Progressive Jewish Alliance
  29. Reparatory Justice Initiative
  30. Journal on Racial and Ethnic Justice
  31. Journal of Law and Gender
  32. Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review
  33. HLS Advocates for Human Rights
  34. Defenders
  35. Student Animal Legal Defense Fund
  36. Project No One Leaves
  37. Harassment Assault Law-Student Team (HALT)
  38. Harvard Law School Christian Fellowship
Suzanne Schlossberg is a 3L, and Rachel Sandalow-Ash is a 1L. Suzanne is the Vice President of the Coalition to Improve LIPP, and Rachel is the President.

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