In Eastern Ohio, $198,962 would buy a nice single family house, with acreage.
But many members of the Thomas Jefferson Law School Class of 2107 will never have the opportunity to enjoy that piece of the American Dream.
As Kathryn Rubino reports in Abovethelaw, the average student loan debt for them is exactly that: $198,962.
And, given that Thomas Jefferson isn't in the T-14, it's unlikely that the Class of 2017 will land those kinds of jobs which make paying off the student loan debt doable in five years. Those jobs, of course, are in BigLaw with its starting salary of $190,000.
Those in research have almost a public duty to find out what kind of magical thinking leads human beings to take on such educational debt. After all, it is well known in the legal field that pedigree counts a lot.
Sure, graduates of non-elite law schools can wind up with lucrative careers. That is a possibility, for example, if they go the politico route and wind up highly paid lobbyists inside the beltway.
However, in general, most of the alumni from non-elite law schools will struggle throughout their professional lives to just earn a living. Out of that living they will have to pony up the monthly payment for those student loans.
In addition, even graduates of elite law schools like Harvard can wind up looking into the debt abyss.
Editor in Chief at Abovethelaw - Elie Mystal - has the signature story: He piled up $150,000 in educational loans from both Harvard Law School and Harvard undergraduate. When he realized he hated working in BigLaw and fled that scene, there was still that $150,000 to pay off. Much of it hangs around as he pursues his passion in the relatively low-paid field of journalism.
Rubino, a T-14 graduate, was laid off during the Stalin-like purge of associates at law firms during The Great Recession. Soon enough her savings ran out. She had to toil in the bowels of document review to keep up with student loan payments and her Manhattan rent. It was a stealth scheme - writing about that experience under the pen name Alex Rich - which was her ticket out. She now is employed full time at Abovethelaw.
When considering applying to law school, even in the elite niche, it's necessary to factor in how difficult it is to pay off any debt, even that of several thousand dollars on a credit card. When that debt is six figures, that's looking at a decade or more of living a life dominated by that reality.
In 2003, I had that moment of clarity that I was overextended. Debt was six figures. My industry had collapsed. It took until 2012 to break free, and that only could happen because I had a house to sell before the real estate market imploded. Otherwise I would still dragging around everywhere my debt like a bag of rotting vegetables. Believe me, everyone notices the stink. Professional and social choices become limited.
More and more in my generation have embraced what I call The New Minimalism. The good news is that members of iGen can do the same and bypass the debt trauma by not applying to law school.
But it's human nature to go with magical thinking.
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