Press Release

July 24, 2007
Bill Includes Amendment to Provide Loan Repayment for Legal Aid Attorneys

U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, D-MD, today hailed Senate passage of legislation that will reform the student loan system “so it works for students, not lenders.”
  The Senator was referring to widespread reports that college financial aid officials have received gifts and other kickback in return for recommending certain lenders even if it was not in the student’s best interest.


In addition to cleaning up the student loan industry by prohibiting gifts from lenders to schools or school officials, the

Higher Education Act Reauthorization
, S. 1642, also would ease students’ ability to access financial aid by reforming the Free Application for Financial Aid (FAFSA) form and requiring schools and lenders provide students with more accessible financial information.
 In addition, it would promote innovative models in teacher preparation programs to promote high-quality and effective teaching.


“It’s critically important that we reform the student loan industry to remove any conflicts of interest that compromise the advice and integrity of financial aid officials,” said Senator Cardin. “This bill also takes steps to address the growing teacher shortage in this nation by promoting high-quality and effective teacher preparation programs.”


Senator Cardin stressed that skilled and experienced teachers are the key to students’ success.
  He has introduced the

Master Teacher Act
, S. 1282, which would provide teachers who are deemed “highly qualified” with a 25% federal tax exemption if they agree to teach at schools that are not meeting the Annual Yearly Progress targets as defined by the

No Child Left Behind Act


S. 1642 also includes an amendment supported by Senator Cardin that would provide loan repayment for legal aid attorneys.
  Senator Cardin is former chairman of Maryland Legal Services Corp and has long advocated the need to provide legal services to low-income Americans.


The Legal Aid provision would build on existing loan repayment and retention programs for federal prosecutors and 29 other government agencies.
  It would provide up to $6,000 a year in loan repayments, with a lifetime maximum of $40,000.


The average starting salary for a Legal Aid attorney is approximately $35,000 and the average yearly loan repayment burden for a new law-school graduate is $12,000.
  Many law school graduates are unable to take positions with Legal Aid or can only stay a few years because their debt is too burdensome.


“Our promise of ‘equal justice under the law’ ring hollow if those most vulnerable are denied access to representation,” he said.
   “We need to make it financially possible for lawyers to provide services to the poor and low-income.