Sustainable Solutions to the Student Debt Crisis

January 25, 2021

Amidst the welcome national attention and commitments in the new Administration and Congress to tackle the student debt crisis, the CBF held a briefing this month to discuss long-term and sustainable solutions to this overarching problem.

As recent law graduates are fully aware, lawyers often leave school with significant amounts of debt. For those choosing higher-paying career paths, the debt can be paid off in a reasonable amount of time. However, that debt burden can affect a lawyer’s ability to pursue and maintain a career they are passionate about, such as in legal aid and government, or building community-focused practices like attorneys in the CBF’s Justice Entrepreneurs Project (JEP). This leaves low- and middle-income communities without much-needed access to the full breadth of attorneys who want to serve them.

This past summer, the CBF collaborated with a stellar pro bono team to craft the “Equality in Higher Education Financing and Repayment Act” (EHEFRA), a legislative proposal that builds on years of advocacy for a comprehensive, long-term solution to the student debt crisis. The EHEFRA would fairly and equitably tackle the unsustainable levels of student loan debt that are exacerbating existing inequalities in our country and inhibiting economic recovery by creating a more rational, fair, and accountable system.

The CBF briefing earlier this month elaborated on the tenets of the EHEFRA and some frequently asked questions about the proposal, and a recording is available for viewing on the CBF YouTube site. Moderated by CBF Advocacy Committee Co-Chair, Dawn Willis, the briefing panel also included the pro bono drafting team of Erin Turley and Allison Wilkerson, partners at McDermott Will & Emery, and David Whaley, partner at Thompson Hine LLP. Dawn set the context for the current student debt crisis while Erin, Allison, and David broke down the statutory language and the strategic thinking that went into crafting the proposal.

You can learn more on the EHEFRA proposal on the CBF website or by contacting CBF Director of Advocacy & Engagement Angela Inzano at ainzano@chicagobarfoundation.org.