Struggling with Your Student Loan Debt? The Law School Loan Expert is Here to Help

Heather Jarvis - Student Loan ExpertToday’s interview is with Heather Jarvis, a student loan expert who was formerly a capital defense attorney. Heather now dedicates her expertise to helping student loan borrowers make better decisions so that higher education can be a reality for all — not just those who can afford it. She’s got great info on dealing with law school loan debt, so let’s get to it!

Alison: I’m a 3L with no job offers so far, and I have no idea how I’m going to pay my $100,000+ in student loans. Obviously, I’m trying to find a job, but I’m starting to freak out. What are my options here? I’m beginning to think this whole law school thing was a really bad idea!

Nearly all loans will give you 6 months after graduating before you have to start making payments, that’s what’s known as a grace period. When the grace period is coming to an end, you’ll want to choose a repayment plan — Income-Based Repayment is a good option for lots of indebted law grads like us.

Income-Based Repayment is perfect for people whose incomes are relatively low as compared to their loan balances.

That’s certainly the case while you’re looking for that job! There are other advantages to Income-Based Repayment too, like an interest subsidy and loan forgiveness opportunities down the line.  

Also, give consolidation some thought. That can help folks get all their loans in one place to make things easier to keep track of.

I’m considering law school, and I’m going to have to fund the entire thing myself. I want to do public interest work when I graduate. What are the three most important things to think about, before I commit to attending?

Congrats and thanks for your interest in public service, I’m all about that! 

Think carefully about the true costs of a legal education.

Tuition is expensive and then there are fees, books, living expenses, “opportunity costs,” and more. Be sure you understand that law school is a major financial investment.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness might be just the ticket for you. It makes it much easier for folks like us to choose relatively low paid public interest jobs even when we have loads of student debt. But the requirements can be confusing and there isn’t anything automatic about it so definitely focus on the fine print.

And by all means, AVOID PRIVATE STUDENT LOANS! They tend to be risky and expensive for student loan borrowers and they lack the flexible repayment provisions and borrower protections of federal loans.

Could you talk a bit about what you do in an average day at work, and how it’s similar to (or different from) what you thought you’d be doing when you started law school?

When I started law school I thought lawyers were like the ones I saw on TV. 

I thought it was mostly about standing up for the little guy and making passionate speeches.

When I got to law school I was like, “What’s with all the research and writing?” Then I started representing defendants facing the death penalty and felt like whoa, where is the regal and just system I had so fondly romanticized?

I’ve worked hard and I’m so lucky because I’ve developed a career where I can contribute to making the world a better place, help people who need a hand, AND do what I like to do — a bit of reading, a smattering of writing, and a whole lot of talking to people!

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Thanks, Heather! If you’ve got student debt woes, check out her fantastic website: Student Loan Expert.

A former capital defense attorney with with law school debt, Heather Jarvis now dedicates her expertise to helping student loan borrowers make better decisions so that higher education can be a reality for all — not just those who can afford it. Specializing in training for high-debt borrowers and the people who love them, Heather has provided guidance and information to thousands of students and recent graduates. She has contributed to student debt relief policy for the House Education Committee and others in Congress, and spent more than six years advocating for public service loan forgiveness, which allows more recent graduates to dedicate their careers to the greater good.

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