matt.l.b wrote:For ex. Michigan's LRAP isn't limited to PI, but that doesn't make it the best LRAP by default. Also, they were straightforward about clerking prospects (competitive but not the best), which is why they claimed to dedicate special resources to clerkship advising-- but a lot of schools do that too.
Be careful that you understand exactly how the LRAP would work for your particular situation. One thing people often don't realize about the school based programs is that some of them -- and Michigan's is one -- only cover loans that the school defines as "need-based." In other words, if they did not assess you as having a need for those loans while in school, then they won't cover them once you're out. Specifically, they subtract your annual "expected student contribution" for each year from the total amount you actually borrowed, and the LRAP only covers borrowing used to make up that difference.
This is a pretty common restriction (Stanford, Harvard, and I think Yale do this, among many others), but one that is not immediately obvious from most descriptions of LRAP plans. Berkeley and Georgetown's LRAPs are the only two I researched that actually (appear) to apply to ALL loans, without need-based exclusions. I did my research a year or two ago now, and a lot of LRAPs have changed significantly since then (mainly in scaling back or eliminating benefits, due to the introduction of federal benefits with the CCRAA in 2007). So the lesson here is that you need to read in detail every scrap of information about these programs, and ask hard, detailed questions of the people who administer them, before you make a six-figure decision to rely on any of them.
Having said that, the truth is that these days nobody should have to make a go or no go decision on any school on concerns of cost vs. salary after graduation. The new federal Income Based Repayment and Public Service Loan Forgiveness programs enacted in 2007 apply to the full amount of ALL Stafford and PLUS loans, and they give generous, substantial repayment benefits to ALL borrowers, for ALL federally guaranteed debt, including for undergrad. These programs also have no "need" or asset related components at all, and use only your actual debt level and income after graduation to compute their benefits. With the federal benefits, if you are a U.S. citizen and you are committed to a long term career in public service (i.e. 10+ years), there is no reason for you to turn down any school on the basis of cost alone.
The other nice thing about the federal plan is that the reduced payments are available for anyone, and the scope of jobs eligible for 10-year forgiveness is very broad. Anyone working for the federal, state, or local government; the military; or any organization classified as a 501(c)(3) (non-profit) is eligible for the 10-year forgiveness, as well as people working in certain other designated "public service" jobs. Judicial clerkships, for instance, should count under this category, as long as you draw a government paycheck, but they are almost universally excluded under most school based plans, no matter how little you make. Even if you work entirely in the private sector, you can still get the reduced payments if you have a low salary, and you can even get forgiveness at 25 years, if you somehow wind up staying poor for that long.http://finaid.org/calculators/ibr.phtmlhttp://ibrinfo.org/
The salary level for benefits is also pretty generous. At $36k per year, you pay nothing, and even at $100k, you still get a big chunk knocked off your payments if you have $150-200k in debt. You don't completely cap out until around $120-160k, and pre-tax deductions like contributions to your 401(k) and IRA accounts should be excluded in most cases (since the income level is based on your reported AGI, not total gross wages).