PHILADELPHIA (March 16, 2009) – The University of Pennsylvania Law School today announced the creation of two public interest fellowships and a significant expansion of its loan-forgiveness program at the opening of its first ever Public Interest Week.
“Penn Law is unrivaled in its support for public service and public interest law,” said Dean Michael A. Fitts. “We are committed to helping the best and the brightest engage in public interest practice without worrying about how they will be able to pay off their student debt.”
Twenty years ago, Penn Law was among the first law schools to require all students to perform public service in order to graduate. During the past two decades, Penn Law students have performed nearly 400,000 hours of pro bono service – the equivalent of 190 years of 40-hour work weeks.
“Our students have worked on death-penalty and asylum cases, promoted community development and advocated for international human rights, while helping to represent constituencies that are often ignored by the legal system,” Fitts said. “That is something worth celebrating.”
The new post-graduate public interest fellowships will be awarded to Penn Law graduates. One will be awarded beginning in fall 2010 to an alumnus who partners with a national or international public interest organization on a law-related research or service project designed by the Fellow; the other, beginning fall 2009, to an alumnus who will split his or her time working at a Philadelphia-based public interest organization and in the Law School’s Toll Public Interest Center, counseling students regarding pro bono opportunities and working to cultivate new opportunities for students.
Fellowship recipients will be selected by a committee of Penn Law faculty and administrators and members of the Toll Public Interest Center’s advisory board.
The loan-forgiveness effort, the Toll Loan Repayment Assistance Program (TollRAP), helps repay student loans for graduates who pursue public interest careers. The program applies a sliding scale to a student’s income and debt to determine the level of assistance. Among the benefits of the new changes, graduates who make $45,000 or less will not be required to contribute toward their loan repayment.
“Our society needs more talented people to commit themselves to public service,” said Penn Law Dean Fitts. “Here is what we are saying to our students: ‘If you go into debt in order to get a Penn Law education, it is our hope that you will be able to afford to go into public service and work on behalf of the common good.”
Penn Law’s first Public Interest Week (March 16-20) features lectures by Stephen Bright, director of the Southern Center for Human Rights and noted death penalty opponent; Linda Greenhouse, who formerly covered the U.S. Supreme Court for the New York Times; and Jeremy Travis, president of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. A panel of experts will discuss “Crime in the City: Current Policies & Alternative Approaches” during the annual Edward V. Sparer Symposium on March 20.
Penn Law’s Toll Public Interest center and its Toll Loan Repayment Assistance Program are named in honor of 1966 Law School graduate Robert Toll, the CEO of Toll Brothers and a benefactor of public interest support at the Law School.