The Kentucky General Assembly recently passed legislation to help engineers and other college graduates who go to work in the energy field pay off their student loans. Now some lawyers in the state are trying to make the case that they too should get help with their college debt.
The burden of college and law-school loans makes it hard to recruit and retain public defenders, legal-aid lawyers, and prosecutors in the state, their advocates argue. Salaries for public-service lawyers in Kentucky start at about $33,000 a year, says Jamie Odle, executive director of the Access to Justice Foundation, and that’s barely enough to put a dent in college debts that can reach $100,000.
“We’re approaching a crisis in being able to attract and retain dedicated, high-quality lawyers to represent poor people,” says Ms. Odle, whose group has pressed for a loan-repayment plan for such lawyers during the last several legislative sessions. She hopes that the recent measure — which provides full loan repayment to graduates of Kentucky colleges who agree to stay in the state and work in the energy field for five years — will serve as a “springboard” for passage of a loan-forgiveness plan for lawyers.
But not everyone in the state is sold on the need for more lawyers.
“We are not lacking for attorneys,” Sen. Robert Stivers, a Republican and supporter of the measure, told The Courier-Journal, a newspaper in Louisville, Ky. “We are lacking for chemists, mathematicians, and physicists.” —Karin Fischer