'Set up for failure,' student debt forgiveness not likely to lighten debt load.

Byline: Ali Teske

"You're set up for failure," said Jaclyn Kallie as she reflected on her student loans.

An attorney with Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown, Kallie graduated from Marquette Law School in 2012. "I've been making payments for almost 10 years, but my loan amount has gone up," she said as interest rates pile onto her initial loan balance of about $140,000.

This is the case for law school graduates as they earn their degree and a staggering pile of loans. According to the American Bar Association Student Loan Debt survey, 95% of lawyers took out loans with the average debt balance $164,742, including undergraduate loans at the time of graduation.

"My personal story is that when I got out, I tried to do the standard repayment for almost two years. I had $900 in interest a month. I was throwing a minimum of $2,000 a month to try and make a dent," said Kallie. "It was pretty crazy trying to not spend money on anything lowering my grocery bill, not going out. I wasn't really living. I signed up eventually for the income-based repayment program."

In recent months, President Joe Biden's administration and the Department of Education has issued student loan forgiveness to certain borrowers. For example, $5.8 billion of federal student loan relief for 560,000 former Corinthian Colleges students. Biden announced earlier in June that the administration was closing in on a decision for more widespread forgiveness of $10,000 per borrower. It is unclear if undergraduate restrictions will apply to this plan.

"I don't think at $10,000 forgiveness is going to change anything when it comes to lawyers in general because it's such a small percentage in terms of the larger portion," said James Miller, co-founder of bankruptcy firm Miller & Miller.

With the average student debt balance for lawyers topping over $160,000, dropping it to $150,000 isn't going to move the curve on monthly payments, Miller and Kallie both agreed. Both attorneys referenced the income-based repayment system that law graduates most often sign on for.

"I have lawyers who request compensation packages that fit in with allowing them to have the lowest income-based repayment possible," said Miller. "It doesn't make sense for me to start paying them more if that increase in wages on the other side of things is going to increase their repayment more than the raise they are getting."

Kallie echoed Miller's point, saying "Part of the problem with this in the legal community, is that the...

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