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Yale Law School Expands Public Interest Program, Increases Financial Support for Graduates


New Haven, Conn. — Yale Law School has announced four major changes that will enhance its public interest program and increase financial support for graduates who choose to work in public interest law.

These changes are designed to build on existing programs at the Law School and meet the long-term realities of graduates’ working lives.

“Yale Law School has a history rich in the tradition of public service, from graduates who have worked in the highest levels of government to other pioneers who established or led public interest organizations,” said Yale Law School Dean Harold Hongju Koh. “We hope the changes announced today will enable even more of our students to continue in this proud tradition, transforming not just our graduates’ lives but also the lives of the many clients and people they will lift through their work.”

The Law School will:

Boost its loan-forgiveness program to aid middle-income participants. Yale Law School will substantially increase the amount of support provided through its loan forgiveness program, COAP (Career Options Assistance Program). COAP’s base income level will increase from $46,500 to $60,000, so that COAP participants making less than $60,000 will no longer be expected to make payments toward their law school loans while their salary remains below that level. Those earning above that level will be asked to contribute a portion of their income above that level towards repaying their law school loans, with COAP covering the rest. In addition, the amount of undergraduate student loans eligible to be forgiven through COAP will increase from $18,000 to $30,000.
COAP will continue to have generous deductions for dependents and childcare expenses and will continue to support graduates in all stages of their lives, including those who are married or in a committed relationship. Yale Law School’s COAP has long been the most flexible of any loan forgiveness program at any law school. Increasing the amount of financial support available through COAP is expected to make it easier for Yale Law School students to choose public interest careers.

Double the number of postgraduate public interest fellowships. Yale Law School will double the number of postgraduate public interest fellowships it offers from 14 to 28. These highly sought-after fellowships give graduates the opportunity to work with public interest organizations at no cost to the organizations, enabling the graduates to contribute their skill and gain critical experience. The fellowships allow graduates to create innovative projects to serve the needs of underserved populations—needs that would not otherwise be met. Yale Law School’s existing postgraduate fellowship programs, including the Bernstein, Heyman and Liman fellowships, have created an intergenerational network of public interest-oriented individuals that is expected to expand exponentially as the school doubles the number of fully-funded positions, launching twice as many alumni into public interest careers.

Provide dedicated public interest counseling. The Law School will add a full-time Director of Public Interest Programs to counsel students, provide additional programming, and coordinate and support the many public interest activities in the School. When hired, the Public Interest Director will report directly to Assistant Dean Sharon Brooks and will collaborate with students, faculty, alumni and directors of Yale Law School clinics, centers and other programs committed to engaging the community in public interest initiatives.

Increase funding for summer public interest opportunities. Yale Law School will increase funding for some international summer public interest opportunities, while continuing its generous funding for summer public interest work in general, for its numerous and robust clinical programs and for its many centers to support the public interest—such as the Arthur Liman Public Interest Program, Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for International Human Rights and China Law Center.

The changes being implemented are the result of a multi-year study by Yale Law School’s Public Interest and Financial Aid Committee, which sought ways to improve opportunities for students to engage in public service both during and after their time at the Law School. A student-led Public Interest Working Group also worked closely with the administration on the recommendations.


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