Funding for Post-Graduate Public Interest Positions
Most individuals are aware of the larger and more well-known funders such as Equal Justice Works and the Skadden Foundation. But, there are many other funders depending on the project or type of organization you seek. The Office of Career and Professional Development has a Fellowship Page on its website that provides a wealth of information about the types of fellowships available and approaching the fellowship application process. PSJD is a great resource to locate potential fellowship sponsors and learn about a variety of funding options. Also WCL awards the JD Distinguished Fellowship to a select group of students who have secured public interest positions. If you’ve missed those deadlines or otherwise are looking for other funders, there are additional resources. First, if you’ve identified an organization you’d like to work with, speak to them about where they seek funding.
Besides working with the grant seekers at your organization, here are some additional suggestions. Along those lines, start with legal funders and go outwards. For example, the DC Bar Foundation has a grant program which may be helpful. It also has an LRAP program, so that may be some relief at least for student loans. Don't forget WCL has an LRAP program as well. You can find details on this and other financial support items at the Office of Public Interest (OPI) website.
You may also use the SPIN and SMARTS tools for grantseekers. Comprehensive guides and information about how to use these tools can be found on the Office of Grant Administration and Program Development 's MyWCL page on the right hand side of the page under Department Documents (Grantseeking Tools). In addition, the Office of Sponsored Programs' webpage describes these tools.
To stay up-to-date and receive any new information about postgraduate fellowship opportunities, please consider joining the Public Interest Express (PIE). Each week, OPI sends out a digest / newsletter that contains information about public interest events, pro bono opportunities, student opportunities, postgraduate jobs and more. Only one email is sent over PIE each week, so don’t worry, OPI won’t clog your inbox.
In your search for funding opportunities, you should also explore the following sites:
- WCL Grants Office website
- DOJ grant-seeking section of their website
Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAPs)
Loan repayment assistance programs (LRAPs) generally help defray the educational debt payments of graduates who go into qualifying public service. LRAPs can be offered by law schools, employers, states and at the Federal level. To learn more about LRAPs, visit these resources:
- Public Interest Loan Repayment Assistance Program (WCL's LRAP called PILRAP)
- DC Bar Foundation administers the DC Poverty Lawyer LRAP for direct services poverty lawyers in DC.
Federal Loan Repayment and Forgiveness Programs
Income-Based Repayment (IBR) and Pay As You Earn (PAYE) are available for all federal student loans (graduate and undergraduate). Under IBR or PAYE, monthly payments are capped at an amount intended to be affordable based on income and family size. The type of employment is not a factor in the calculation, only income and debt.
Public sector employees can combine participation in IBR or PAYE with participation in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program, but all federal loans must be in the federal direct loan program for PSLF. The benefit of PSLF is that the remaining balance on any federal loans will be forgiven after ten years in the program. For some graduates, their Grad PLUS loans are federally-guaranteed (FFEL) loans and must be consolidated into a Direct Consolidation loan for PSLF. IBR is not available for private loans. Information can be found at: https://www.myedaccount.com/. Additional information available at: WCL Financial Aid Office.