Public Interest Loan Repayment Plan (PILRAP)

Public Interest Loan Repayment Plan - Navigation

Many of AUWCL's alumni enter into careers for the public interest; carrying forward the institution's long-standing commitment to use the law as a tool for positive change in our society. Given the cost of higher education and the resulting debt burden, a career in public interest may not be economically viable unless graduates invest time and energy in learning how to manage debt. It is important that public interest lawyers avail themselves of the repayment plans and assistance programs offered by the federal government and other entities. As a demonstration of ongoing commitment to supporting graduates who apply the law to the greater good, AUWCL implemented an invaluable assistance program, the Public Interest Loan Repayment Assistance Program (PILRAP).

PILRAP helps offset the educational debt burden by providing loan repayment assistance to qualifying JD graduates who work full-time in certain non-profit or government positions. To be eligible* to participate in PILRAP, JD graduates must:

  1. Apply within the eligible time frame. JD graduates are eligible to apply for the program within three years of graduation. Time-limited clerkships are not qualifying employment for the purposes of PILRAP; however, the three year restriction on eligibility after graduation will be tolled for purposes of pursing time-limited clerkships. Once a graduate has entered the program (confirmed by the receipt of PILRAP funds), he or she must continue to reapply each year to receive benefits. Graduates who have received PILRAP funding within 3 years of graduation may continue applying annually for PILRAP loan repayment assistance for up to ten years. Participants must be enrolled in the program or in an inactive status every year, or they will exit the program and not be permitted to re-enter unless an exception is granted by the PILRAP Committee. Please read the Frequently Asked Questions to learn more about inactive status.

  2. Work in qualifying employment. The JD graduate's work must meet all of the following requirements to qualify for PILRAP loan repayment assistance:

    • Full-time. Defined as an annual average of working at least 30 hours per week.

    • Law-related. This requirement encompasses a wide variety of legal work and is not limited to the practice of law in its strictest sense. Nevertheless, the employment should substantially use the legal training and skills of the graduate.

    • Public Interest. The employer must satisfy one of the following criteria to be considered "public interest employment":

      • Non-profit - work for an organization qualifying for tax exemption under IRS Code Sections 501(c)(3), 501(c)(4) or 501(c)(5);

      • Government - work for a local, state or federal government agency or office; or

      • Judicial - Court staff attorney positions and career law clerk positions qualify. Graduates in time-limited clerkships are not eligible for funding during the clerkship.

    • Non-Discrimination Policy. Employer must comply with AUWCL's non-discrimination policy.

  3. Meet income requirements. The maximum annual salary allowable to enter PILRAP is $75,000. For married applicants, the applicant's annual salary will be considered to be the greater of the following two values: the applicant's salary, or half of the total family salary. Other forms of additional income or resources may preclude eligibility. Applicants with a zero salary are ineligible for PILRAP funding.

*Eligibility does not guarantee program participation or funding.

Only federal student loans in a satisfactory repayment status are eligible for PILRAP. Private education loans, including bar study loans, are not eligible for assistance. For eligible federal loans to be considered for PILRAP, the participant must be actively enrolled in an income-driven repayment plan while making qualifying payments greater than zero dollars.

The award given by PILRAP is a forgivable loan for participants who maintain qualifying employment and adhere to program rules as outlined in the master promissory note and compliance statement.

If the recipient works for less than one year in qualifying employment then he or she must inform the AUWCL Aid Office within thirty (30) days of the change in employment. The recipient may have to repay the portion of the award that corresponds to any period of time during the year in which the recipient did not maintain qualifying employment. The repayment must be made within that same year.

Applicants are encouraged to take advantage of other LRAP programs (such as state, federal, or employer LRAPs). Application and receipt of other LRAP awards must be disclosed on the PILRAP application and will be considered by the PILRAP Committee. See the Frequently Asked Questions to learn more.

Eligibility for program participation must be reestablished each year, including at the mid-year certification. An application and supporting documents must be submitted by the established deadlines for award consideration or for PILRAP loan forgiveness to be determined. Failure to reapply will result in loss of assistance.

PILRAP funding is limited. The program is evaluated annually and is subject to change.

For more information about PILRAP, please contact pilrap@wcl.american.edu.

Participants must apply each year for funds for the following calendar year. Applications are typically made available in late August/early September and are due by October 1 at 5:00PM (EST). Decisions are typically emailed in December with award checks, if eligible, mailed in mid-January.

The PILRAP mid-year certification form is due May 15th, in order for the second disbursement to be processed and released. Second disbursement checks are typically mailed in June to those eligible participants.

The 2018 PILRAP cycle is now closed. Please note: all PILRAP related communications are to be sent via email to pilrap@wcl.american.edu.

The signed application requires current loan statements that include the balance, interest rate, repayment plan, and monthly payment amount for each loan. A redacted example of such documentation can be viewed by clicking this link. The AUWCL Financial Aid Office reserves the right to request additional documentation, including federal tax documents, to verify the information provided on the application. Verification of employment signed by the participant’s supervisor is also required.    

All application materials must be scanned together and emailed as a single attachment in an email (with the subject heading “PILRAP Application”) to pilrap@wcl.american.edu by 5:00PM (EST) on October 1. Hard copies, faxes, and incomplete applications will not be accepted. An application is not considered submitted until the applicant receives a confirmation email from the AUWCL Financial Aid Office. An applicant who does not receive a confirmation email within two business days of submitting the application must contact pilrap@wcl.american.edu to confirm receipt of the application. Late applications will not be considered.

All recipients of PILRAP funding must sign and return a master promissory note and a compliance statement before funds can be released.

Participants are required to submit the mid-year certification form, along with employment verification signed by the participant’s supervisor and proof of loan payments for the previous months of the calendar year. All of this information must be scanned into a single attachment and emailed to pilrap@wcl.american.edu. All information submitted at mid-year must be complete and compliant with program rules in order for the second disbursement to be calculated.

May I redact my social security number from the documents that I submit with my PILRAP application?

Yes. The PILRAP Committee only requires your AU ID number in order to process your application.

Should I include my undergraduate federal student loans in my application?

Yes. The PILRAP Committee considers all federal student loan debt (law school, other graduate school, and undergraduate school).

I received an LLM from AUWCL. May I apply for PILRAP?

Only JD graduates of AUWCL may apply for, and receive, PILRAP funding. If you received both your JD and your LLM from AUWCL, then you may apply for PILRAP if you are otherwise eligible. LLM graduates from AUWCL, who did not receive their JD from AUWCL, should familiarize themselves with the federal income-driven repayment plans and loan forgiveness plans. For more information, visit: http://studentaid.ed.gov/repay-loans/understand/plans.

I am a dual degree student, and I will not finish my MA until the spring. Should I apply for PILRAP in October, before I finish my MA?

No. You should wait until after you have finished your studies to apply for PILRAP.

Can I apply for PILRAP even though I am currently looking for a job or have a zero dollar payment?

In order to apply for PILRAP, you must be working full-time. If at the time of application, you have no loan repayment obligation because your IBR amount is zero dollars every month, you are ineligible to receive PILRAP funding.

Can I have multiple eligible public service jobs combined to meet the full-time employment requirement?

Yes. As long as all positions are eligible and you work at least 30 hours per week.

Can I receive PILRAP assistance if I work abroad?

If your work is located abroad but your employer is the US government or another qualifying employer under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, then you are eligible for assistance. If you are working for a foreign government or foreign non-profit, then you are not eligible for assistance.

Can I apply for PILRAP as a participant of the JD Distinguished Fellowship Program?

Yes; however, your income-driven repayment obligation may be zero, in which case you do not need to apply for PILRAP assistance. Keep in mind that if you do not apply this year, you must apply within three years of your graduation in order to gain entrance into the program. For those JD Distinguished Fellows who do apply for PILRAP, no signature is needed on the Employment Verification Form. If you have not secured employment when your JD Distinguished Fellowship ends and you participate in an income-driven repayment plan, then you should alert your servicer that your income is diminishing and ask for your monthly obligation to be recalculated.

I am employed in a time-limited clerkship, such as a clerk for the Executive Office for Immigration Review, a clerk for an Office of Administrative Law Judges, or a judicial clerk. Is that eligible employment for PILRAP?

No. These positions are time-limited positions and do not qualify for PILRAP assistance. Although you are not eligible, your window of eligibility to enter the program is not impacted during your clerkship. Please note the examples in the question are not an exhaustive list of time-limited positions to be excluded from eligibility.

Will my spouse's income exclude me from the program? Do I need to provide the PILRAP Committee with my spouse’s income information even though we file our taxes separately?

For married applicants, the applicant's annual salary will be considered to be the greater of the following two values: the applicant's salary, or half of the total family salary. You will need to provide the PILRAP Committee with your spouse’s income information. Although tax documents are not required at the time of application, the PILRAP Committee reserves the right to request copies of federal taxes for you, your spouse, or both.

Can I receive assistance from both PILRAP and another LRAP program, such as the DC Bar Foundation LRAP?

Yes; however, the other LRAP award may preclude you from being eligible for PILRAP assistance. If this happens, you may ask to go on inactive status with AUWCL’s PILRAP program. Please see the answer to the Frequently Asked Question “If I am ineligible to apply for PILRAP this year, does that mean that I may never apply again?” If you apply for another LRAP, you must note that fact on your PILRAP application. The PILRAP Committee will not calculate your PILRAP award until you notify the AUWCL Financial Aid Office of the outcome of your other LRAP application.

What happens if my income changes and/or my payments decrease in the middle of the year?

Income changes and/or payment decreases must be reported to the AUWCL Financial Aid Office within 30 days. Based on your new income and/or any decrease to your repayment obligation, the PILRAP Committee will recalculate your award. If your income increases above $75,000, you will not receive any pending disbursements from the PILRAP program and you may need to pay back any funds that you already received which have not yet been applied to your loans.

When do I have to repay my award if I leave the program?

If you leave your eligible employment before the end of the calendar year, you must inform the AUWCL Financial Aid Office within thirty (30) days of the change in employment. You may be asked to repay the portion of the assistance that corresponds to any period of time during the calendar year in which you did not maintain qualifying employment. The repayment must be made within that same calendar year.

Will I owe taxes on PILRAP funds received from my school?

Please talk to your accountant for more information. You will not receive any tax forms in the mail from the school with regard to PILRAP awards.

If I am ineligible to apply for PILRAP this year, does that mean that I may never apply again?

If you have received PILRAP funding in the prior year and you are working in full-time qualifying public interest employment, you may apply for inactive status if you have a $0 monthly payment or your salary is above $75,000 to maintain eligibility to apply in the following year. To be in an inactive status, you must turn in an Employment Verification Form and a statement that you wish to be on inactive status on an annual basis. Failure to submit the necessary documentation will result in a loss of program eligibility. While on inactive status, you will receive no assistance from the PILRAP program.  There is no time limit as to how long you may be on inactive status; however, being on inactive status counts toward the ten year period during which you are eligible for PILRAP assistance.


Does receipt of PILRAP funding confirm my eligibility for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)?
No. Only FedLoan Servicing can provide confirmation.