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Northwestern’s New Initiatives Make Law School More Affordable

Law School commits additional $2 million annually to assist students and alumni

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February 16, 2016 | by Erin Meyer

CHICAGO --- Northwestern Pritzker School of Law announced Tuesday nine initiatives intended to make law school more affordable and support alumni. 

The new initiatives represent a commitment of $2 million annually and are made possible by record-breaking giving by law school alumni and friends, including the historic $100 million gift from J.B. and M.K. Pritzker.

“This is our running start -- though the race no doubt is a long one -- to take some tangible steps that attempt to address student need and educational debt in creative and constructive ways,” Northwestern Pritzker School of Law Dean Daniel Rodriguez said. 

“Coupled with a more than doubling of our scholarship budget, our recently launched Interest Freedom Plan, and tempered tuition increases in recent years, we are making some meaningful progress,” Rodriguez continued. “Yet, there is much more to be done, and I can assure you that we remain hard at work in generating further ideas to tackle these issues.”

Interest Freedom Plan Expansion: The law school is expanding the benefit period for the recently launched Interest Freedom Plan (IFP) from one to two consecutive years immediately following graduation. Beginning in 2016, the law school also will raise the qualifying salary for IFP by $5,000, from $84,999 to $89,999. Further, the law school is committing to fund this program for eligible J.D. students through the graduating class of 2020. IFP currently is providing more than $300,000 in funding to 30 alumni from the 2015 graduating class. This augmentation effectively doubles the law school’s financial commitment to this plan. 

Emergency Alumni Relief Fund: Recognizing that individuals, including Northwestern alumni, may experience financial challenges caused by uncontrollable life events, the law school will set aside an annual sum of $200,000 in emergency assistance. Through this reserve, the law school will fund on a first-come, first-served basis, qualifying graduates with an amount approximately equal to the interest that otherwise would accrue on their law school loans during the corresponding calendar year.   

$8,000 Summer Public Interest Funding Guarantee: Effective immediately, the law school is committing to guarantee summer funding of at least $8,000 for students who complete at least 20 volunteer hours for the Student Funded Public Interest Fellowships (SFPIF) or another nonprofit organization and whose summer employment resides within a public interest or nonprofit organization and lasts at least 10 weeks.  

The law school also will provide a two-to-one match for every dollar in excess of $60,000 that SFPIF raises during the academic year. These additional funds will then be distributed equally among qualifying students who complete at least 10 hours of volunteer work for SFPIF up to a cap of $10,000 per student.   

“To our knowledge, we will now have the most generous summer public interest funding guarantee of any law school in the country,” Rodriguez said. “This augmentation reinforces our increased commitment to invigorate our law school’s public interest culture, both in terms of expanding our programmatic offerings, and in supporting students who wish to pursue careers in public service.”   

Off-Campus Job Fair Travel Support: The law school will reimburse students up to $500 for travel expenses associated with participation in school-sanctioned, off-campus job fairs.   

Public Interest Job Interview Travel Support: The law school will reimburse students up to $500 for travel expenses incurred in order to interview for a public interest job outside of the Chicago-area.

Clerkship Interview Travel Support: The law school will reimburse students up to $500 for travel expenses incurred in order to interview for a judicial clerkship outside of the Chicago area.

Increased Hourly Rate for Research Assistants: As announced last month, the law school has increased the hourly rate for research assistants to $16 per hour. 

Increased Teaching Assistant Stipend: Also announced last month, the law school has raised its annual teaching assistant stipend amount to $2,000.

Full-Time Alumni Career Specialist: As part of an aspiration to provide lifelong support for alumni, the law school will create a new full-time position within the Career Strategy Center solely devoted to Northwestern Pritzker School of Law alumni. Once hired, this new individual will be charged with providing alumni at all career stages with sound advice and, where feasible, to facilitate links to potential employment opportunities. 

Topics: University News