I've noticed there is a lot of discussion about the merits of Yale's COAP program, Harvard's LIPP, and SLS' LRAP, but there is relatively little comparative analysis on their relative strengths/weaknesses. My hope is that this post bridges that gap to a certain extent and provides for a more in depth discussion about the three.
A couple things before I start:
1) I am a 0L, and thus have no experience repaying loans through these programs. Would LOVE to have input from graduates here if possible. That's half the point of this thread.
2) I do not mean for this comparison to be definitive. I may have misunderstood something during my research or forgot an important aspect of a program. I do not pretend to be an expert here and am only offering my best interpretation. Please correct me if I am wrong on anything. I would be VERY surprised if there aren't details in here that I am off on.
3) I've only looked at YHS here for personal reasons (can PM me if interested). If someone wants to apply this analysis to other LRAP programs I would love to see it.
4) These are not ordered by importance - just randomly.
5) Sources are almost entirely from the following sites. For more complete info, please read them:
Yale: https://www.law.yale.edu/system/files/a ... iption.pdf
https://www.law.yale.edu/system/files/a ... Oct_14.pdf
Stanford: http://media.law.stanford.edu/calculato ... 0Terms.pdf
http://hls.harvard.edu/dept/sfs/basics- ... o-to-lipp/
Ok here we go...
Jobs that are Eligible
YLS: Entirely income based. Job need not be legal based.
HLS: All nonprofit, government, or academic jobs are eligible, whether in the legal field or not. For private practice, must be a legal job to be eligible.
SLS: Must be PI legal jobs
Analysis: Y > H > S here. I think the importance of this factor really depends on what you want to do. I've worked in policy and while I am 95% I want to be in a JD required job, I could definitely see myself transitioning back into the policy world 5-8 years out. So for me, this is a huge leg up for Y/H.
YLS: First 5 years on a 15 year plan. Second 5 on a 5 year plan.
HLS: 10 year plan.
SLS: Believe it is the same as Harvard, but did not see this stated explicitly.
Analysis: Not entirely sure here, but would imagine HS > Y here. If you were to leave the program after 4 years, lets say, you would have a good chunk more paid off from H/S than Y.
Moving in and out of the Program
YLS: Can move in and out of program freely, but eligibility ends after 10 years.
HLS: Eligible as long as you are still repaying loans.
SLS: Can move in and out freely BUT must be in within 5 years of graduation. Eligibility ends after 10 years.
Analysis: H > Y > S. Would be rare that this would apply, but if you were on a 20 year repayment plan and worked 10 years in a non-LRAP job and than moved to one that was eligible, you could still use Harvard's LIPP (assuming assets were not to high). Hard to imagine a situation where this would happen, so this is a minor concern. Y > S because can enter in year 6. Again, very minor.
Note: Would love someone to double-check this. I may be misinterpreting H here.
YLS: Up to $30,000 eligible.
HLS: Up to $30,000 eligible.
SLS: Not eligible.
Analysis: Y/H > S. Potentially huge for those with UG loans.
Salary less than $50,000 = $0
$50,000 - $65,000 = 15% of income over $50,000
$65,000 - $80,000 = $2,250 + 30% of income over $65,000
$80,000 and above = $6,750 + 60% of income over $80,000
Less than $46,000 = $0
$46,000 - $52,000 = 20% of income over $46,000
$52,000 and above = $1,200 + 40% of income above $52,000
Less than $50,000 = $0
$50,000 - $65,000 = 15% of income over $50,000
$65,000 - $80,000 = $2,250 + 50% of income over $50,000
$80,000 and above = $9,750 + 70% of income over $80,000
Analysis: Y > S > H. You end up paying less from H vs. S right below $90,000. End up paying less from H than Y just below $110,000. HOWEVER it is important to note that each school calculates your yearly gross income slightly differently. We will look at that a bit more below.
Gross Income (assuming no kids and not taking into account any other factors) will be calculated as:
YLS: Your income + Spouse's - $40,000 - Amount spouse must pay in loans that year
HLS: Whichever is higher - 1) Your income OR 2) Average of both incomes. Then subtract what your spouse is paying in loans that year
SLS: Same as HLS
Analysis: This really depends on your spouse/situation, but to me I would say in general H/S > Y. If your spouse is making more than $40,000, Y will be more expensive. But I mean, calling all forever alones, does this really matter?
Note: These differ a bit if both partners are in the program. Chose not to go into that here, but if someone wants to be my guest.
YLS: $8,000 credit per dependent + up to $17,000 credit in child care (stay at home spouse gets credit for full $17,000)
HLS: $6,000 credit for first kid + $3,600 for each additional + "reasonable" child care expenses (this was very vague - they gave no exact number, but does not include educational fees)
SLS: $8,000 credit per dependent
Analysis Y > S > H, though the vague child care expenses at H could maybe put it above S? Doubt they would do more than Y's 17k, so they still aren't beating Y here.
YLS: $10,000 eligible but loan must be taken out before graduation
HLS: $10,000 eligible
SLS: $8,500 eligible
Analysis: Not too important but I guess H > Y > S if you need more than $8,500 and assuming you have the wherewithal to take the loan out before graduating. No idea what bar expenses are though, so if normally below $8,500 this point is mute...
YLS: 6 months per child with full benefits.
HLS: Up to 6 months with full benefits IF employer approved. If you then leave your job no longer eligible and must repay any assistance receiving $ during that time.
SLS: Same as HLS but if not approved by employer can get forbearance and remain in the program without receiving any benefits. (You start getting them again once back at work). Can be like this for 24 total months of the 10 year program.
Analysis: Y > S > H. Maybe I'm missing something with H, but it seems sort of harsh.
YLS: Need at least 20 hrs/week to be eligible. Income adjusted up as if full time though. (i.e. $20,000 salary at 20 hrs/wk calculated as $40,000)
HLS: Not eligible unless you go part time to care for a child.
SLS: Same as YLS.
Analysis: Y/S > H. Minor point.
YLS: 3 months/year with full benefits.
HLS: Get 8 weeks between jobs over entire 10 years. Need forbearance otherwise.
SLS: Need forbearance and then can stay in program without receiving funds.
Analysis: Y > H > S.
YLS: Loan of up to $10,000 a year. If you then go to a non-COAP position, must repay loan plus 7.5% interest within a year. If next job is COAP eligible, loan added to debt and paid off under COAP after a year.
HLS: Loan as well (no interest rate given on website - regardless these change for Y/S I'd bet as well). If next job is LIPP eligible, works like Y. But if not, must repay the loan within the next year PLUS $250/10% of principle, whichever is higher.
SLS: Loan at 6.8%, and you can take one out for 2 years of clerking. Repayment works like Y.
Analysis: Y/S > H. I guess slightly less on interest at S makes it best here? Also, if you intend to go to a LRAP job after clerkship, H essentially same here.
YLS: $6,000 base plus $6,000 more for each year in the program sheltered. In addition, retirement accounts and fixed property assets (house/car) are sheltered as well. Anything over this threshold is added to gross annual income.
HLS: Bit complicated here. $10,000 base + $8,000 for each year in the program + $8,000 for each year worked before LS are sheltered. However, only 50% of retirement $ are protected, and fixed property assets seem to be counted as well. For your first year in the program, 100% of assets added to gross annual, but that goes down by 10% for each year in the program.
SLS: Anything over $130,000 counted.
Analysis: Because of the complexity of H's program, I'm having trouble differentiating it from Y - it is completely dependent on the individual situation. However, I am going Y > H > S because fixed property/retirement assets are completely sheltered there. S might sound good in principle, but it makes it really difficult to save. Correct me if I'm wrong, but your 401(k) would be fully counted as an asset there.
HLS: Starting after completing the 5th year in the program, you subtract $5,000 from your gross annual, then $6,000 the next year and so on.
SLS: Same as H, but the benefits start after the first year with $1,000 and so on.
Analysis: S > H > Y. Nice bonus here from S.
pigzorz wrote:re: Seniority adjustment, I know the Yale makes the case that years 6-10 have what is effectively a seniority adjustment. You still have 2/3rds of your debt and you'll be paying it off on a 5 year plan, thus requiring much higher payments and giving you room for higher incomes that would still garner COAP payments.
YLS: COAP covers 3 years of the joint degree.
HLS: $30,000 of undergraduate debt can be used instead to cover the joint degree.
SLS: Nothing I could find.
Analysis: H > Y > S. Although I'm not really sure how joint degree tuition payments work, so could be off here between Y and S.
When I look at all these together, it seems that in general Y > H > S, though that could easily change depending on what you value. For instance, the ability to potentially take a policy job 6 years out from H is worth the extra couple thousand I would pay per year there over S. Others might have a different - and perfectly legitimate - analysis of this.
However, I think the versatility of Y, lower yearly payments, undergrad debt eligibility, kids/leave/unemployment/part-time, and especially the way they calculate assets makes Y the clear winner here in almost any situation. Maybe if you are married and your spouse makes bank this changes a bit (but then you wouldn't be eligible for LRAP loans going into LS anyway at any of these schools). For H vs. S., I think having undergrad debt/going for a joint degree makes H much more attractive, though you would (likely) be paying less after from S. That being said, the ex-factor/unknown here is asset valuation.
Anyway, I know for most people this is TL:DR, but I hope for those who it interests this was helpful. I wrote this out as much for me as anyone, and like I said at the top I likely made a few errors, so please correct anything that is off! Thanks all.