clinical work

Students Reflect on LSC’s Role in their Pursuit of Public Interest Careers

In a recent post on the HLS Admissions Blog, two students of the Project on Predatory Student Lending wrote about Building a Public Interest Career at HLS.  They name four building blocks for a career in public interest law, including clinical work.  Of their experience at LSC, they write:

Clinics are a key part of the law school experience for public interest students because they give us a chance to learn important lawyering skills while gaining experience working on issues that we care about.  We are both enrolled in the Predatory Lending and Consumer Protection Clinic at HLS’s Legal Services Center.  As part of the Project on Predatory Student Lending, we directly represent low-income borrowers who have received predatory student loans.  We’re experiencing firsthand what it is like to be a lawyer: conducting client meetings, filing motions in court, and making strategic decisions about cases.  We are closely supervised by a smart and energetic attorney who makes sure that we constantly improve our skills while offering top-notch services to our clients.

http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/admissions/2015/03/16/building-a-public-interest-career-at-hls/ 

LSC’s Project on Predatory Student Lending Featured on German Public Television

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The Project on Predatory Student Lending was recently featured on Welstpiegel (“World Mirror”), the Sunday evening newsmagazine of ARD Television, the largest national public broadcaster in Germany.  The segment (video) features the Project’s clinical students holding a meeting at LSC, as well as an interview with Toby Merrill, the Project’s director. The segment begins with footage recorded outside of LSC’s building at 2:14. A transcript of the story is also available (in German).

Project on Predatory Student Lending Student Saves Client Over $40,000

The Project on Predatory Student Lending recently helped save a client over $44,000.  A problem in his federal student loan consolidation left him with several defaulted loans.  He came to the clinic because he was struggling to repay his loans, and because he did not understand why he still had defaulted loans after his consolidation.

His student attorney, Alison Sher, reviewed the client’s loan records and discovered errors in his loan consolidation process. The client had consolidated his loans in an effort to get them out of default and begin repaying them.  When his loans were supposedly consolidated, several of his loans were improperly excluded from the consolidation.  Two problems arose with the loans that were “left out” of the consolidation.  First, these loans remained in default, leaving the client at risk of the extraordinary collection powers of the federal government. For example, the federal government may seize borrowers’ earned income tax credits and garnish their wages without seeking a judgment in court.  The second problem was that the outstanding balance for these unconsolidated loans was included twice in the client’s outstanding loan totals.

Alison researched, wrote, and submitted a statement explaining these problems to the federal student loan ombudsman, who helps borrowers fix problems that their servicers cannot or will not correct.  As a result, the ombudsman removed over $24,000 in interest from the account, and also removed the erroneous defaulted loans and the interest that had accrued on those loans, amounting to more than $20,000 of additional relief.

Alison also addressed the client’s concerns by ensuring that he understood what steps we took on his behalf and his reduced outstanding balance. She also made sure that the client enrolled in an income–driven repayment plan, so that his payments would be affordable and his loans would not go into default in the future.

The Project on Predatory Student Lending Submits Comments Regarding the Upcoming Negotiated Rulemaking to Expand “Pay As You Earn”

By Maxwell Ball, J.D. ’15

On November 4, 2014, the Project on Predatory Student Lending of the Legal Services Center, in partnership with the National Consumer Law Center, submitted comments to the Department of Education arguing that more low-income people should be entitled to greater relief in repaying their student loans. President Obama asked the Department to enact regulations to expand repayment relief to more low-income borrowers in the coming year.

The comments were drafted by clinical student Maxwell Ball and his supervisor Toby Merrill, along with nationally recognized experts Deanne Loonin and Persis Yu of the National Consumer Law Center’s Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project. They share experiences and often dire circumstances of the Project’s clients, who are low-income student borrowers struggling to repay onerous federal student loans. We propose several regulatory changes that would expand and target student loan repayment relief to more low-income borrowers. Some of our proposed changes include: removing existing restrictions on eligibility for the repayment programs based on when the loans were borrowed; simplifying and clarifying the repayment process; protecting more very-low-income borrowers from making monthly payments.  We also emphasize the importance of income-driven repayment relief for low-income parents who borrow to finance their children’s education.

We also raise several issues that the Department of Education needs to address to ensure that changes to the repayment program are effective. The Department must improve its oversight of federal student loan servicers and debt collectors, who currently fail to help and even harass and abuse borrowers. Borrowers who are at risk of defaulting on their federal student loans should be identified earlier, and helped to avoid default and its consequences. We also discuss the extraordinary harm caused by fraudulent practices at many for-profit schools, and suggest several ways that the Department could provide greater relief to borrowers who continue to suffer for many years and often decades after they were students.  Finally, we address two important ways that borrowers who have already been harmed are being prevented from obtaining relief: the overly-narrow regulatory restrictions on certain types of federal loan discharges, and sweeping arbitration clauses in for-profit school enrollment agreements and private student loan contracts.  The Department has the authority to improve safeguards and expand remedies in both of these areas, and should use that authority to help students rather than to protect corporations.