I saw a tweet this morning:

“Everyone entering Lawschool should ask hmslf this: R mom&dad paying tuition? If not, if ur taking out loans, Get Out Now”

And now I need to talk about it. Because I say things.

First off, full disclosure: Mom and dad are not paying my tuition. Between undergrad, grad school, and law school, by the end I’m looking at about $200K in loans. So… I kind of feel the need to defend my decisions. Also I don’t think they are totally stupid.

(Also I should be working on a paper right now, but I would rather talk about meritocracies. Obviously.)

Basing the idea that one should do things that are expensive and related to “doing what you want” with your life- rising in the ranks of society, as it were, only if someone else is paying for it is a step in ensuring that the aristocracy- the people with the money- are the only ones who get to do a thing.

Yeah, that was disjointed. So lets start with some assumptions.

1: Law school and professional and post-graduate education is expensive.
2: becoming a lawyer or a doctor or an MBA (well… not so much MBAs- everyone has one it seems like :P) is a step up in society.
3: Becoming a lawyer specifically, opens some doors to the upper “ranks” of society and gives people the opportunity to do things like work in government, which leads to those people making decisions that affect everyone else.

Now, if we limit that kind of thing to the people who have family money- people who can afford to drop the $160-300K for three extra years of school for their kid- that really limits who has the chance of getting to that level. As it is, the people who tend to get up to that level already come from money and privilege. So limiting it even more because you’re afraid of a little debt* seems counterproductive.

And the other reality is, along with the Healthcare Reform bill that passed earlier this year, there was also Student Loan Reform wrapped up in that, too. ALL OF YOU who have federal student loans should look at this page: Income based repayment. Consolodate your federal loans (and stay the hell away from private ones, if at ALL possible- with Grad Plus loans, you shouldn’t need them) and once you enter repayment, your minimum payment is based on your income and the size of your family, not how much your loan is. In addition, there is Public Service Loan Forgiveness– if you work in public service for ten years and make 120 loan payments while working in public service (and what counts as public service is available at the link) the unpaid balance of your loans is forgiven. The idea is that with public service salaries being pathetically low (and they are), it’s hard to get the smart people who could get jobs in big law, or who would go into public service but just couldn’t afford it, and give them an incentive. And for those who didn’t want to do public service, at least some loan payments are better than people defaulting all the time.

(Unlike this git I saw in a livejournal post who decided that he couldn’t afford to pay back his loans, and buy a house and save for retirement so he just…. stopped paying his loans. And it didn’t seem to occur to him that not paying his student loans would make it difficult to buy a house. Also he’s a douchebag, since his $70K that he’s trying to ignore out of existence is sitting there, growing, and making it more expensive for the rest of us. Asshole.)

So it IS expensive, but it’s not impossible. We are the most educated generation ever, and I freely admit that one of my lesser reasons for law school was that it seemed like a good place to hide from the recession for three years. That said, tuition is fucking insane** and it really needs to get under control. But refusing to do something you want to do, I mean, really want to do, just because mom and dad can’t get it for you, that’s stupid.

Now, if you aren’t sure you want to go to law school, don’t waste your money or your time, please. But that is a whole other thing. I didn’t decide that I wanted to go to law school until my desire to be an attorney was greater than my desire to NOT go to law school. And I don’t regret the decision at all. (I’m also really glad I didn’t do this when I was 22- I never would have cut it in my crazy-ass early 20s. That’s my other bit of advice- don’t go to law school until you have your shit together, please. It’s not a place to get your shit together, it is really not.

*Please see $200K up above. I’m no stranger to debt. And I go to the cheap Boston law school.

** Seriously, Mama Red is gonna yell at me for swearing SO MUCH. She can blame Papa Red for it, though- he was the one who taught me to swear fluently in the first place. 😛