Just over ten years ago I started law school. My legal education cost a great deal more than my undergraduate schooling, but I didn’t really worry because I was certain that my federal loans would be forgiven. I had no doubt that I was going to be a prosecutor, and in my mind the only question was whether I would be doing it at the federal or the state level.
Shortly after graduating law school I landed my dream job as a prosecutor. I did work I was passionate about and made a difference in my community. However, I didn’t stay a prosecutor for the necessary 10 years for public service loan forgiveness. Life had other plans for me. The little blog that I started, The Student Loan Sherpa, grew to become my new passion. I switched from advocating for the members of my community to advocating for student loan borrowers across the country.
It is certainly true that I could have kept my job as a prosecutor for ten years and that I could be well on my way to student loan forgiveness. The appeal of the job I accidentally created pulled me in another direction.
I share my story to make an important point: you have no idea what the future holds. It is certainly possible that your loans will eventually be forgiven. It is also possible that you end up in the private sector. It is also possible that you are unable to find a qualifying job. Your future may contain surprises you can’t even conceive right now. Mine did.
I had a mock trial teammate who called the massive student loan refund check we got each semester monopoly money. That money certainly bought real things in the real world, but it still had a funny money aspect to it. The strings attached to that money didn’t become apparent to many until after graduation.
This isn’t to say that federal loans are a bad idea, or that you shouldn’t ever borrow money to pay for school. Federal student loans are a much better option than private loans because of programs like loan forgiveness and income-driven repayment plans. These programs protect the future interests of borrowers and help avoid student loan nightmares. However, despite the merits of these federal perks, it is critical that borrowers don’t make any dangerous assumptions.
Don’t bank on student loan forgiveness. Don’t borrow money that you don’t absolutely need. Have a Plan B and keep an open mind to the future.
Law school should be about opening new doors and new opportunities. Unwise student loan decisions will only close doors and limit opportunity.