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I went to law school specifically to study environmental law so that I might work in the public interest to save our resources for future generations. I attended Vermont Law School, where I was only able to attend because of the availability of student loans. When I graduated, my debt was nearly $100,000. When I first graduated, I took an entry-level position at a small non-profit, and I was immediately forced to consolidate my loans because I could not have afforded the payment otherwise. When I consolidated, in 1996, interest rates were high, so I became locked in at 8%, which the loan company told me was a good deal, as interest rates could be as high as 12-15% or more if I accepted the "floating" interest rate. Since I needed some stability and predictability in my monthly loan payment, I locked in at 8%. Now that interest rates are lower, I've tried everything to find a way to lower the interest rate. And for ten years, I've been paying a huge student loan payment, and I still have another $60,000 to pay off!
I've stuck to my guns on doing public interest environmental work, so I have continued working for state government or non-profit organizations, and I currently make less than half of what starting associates make at law firms. But, as a result, I have no savings, next to nothing in my retirement account, and I've not been able to purchase a home. With the real estate market spiraling out of control, my chances of being able to afford a home now are next to nil. I am absolutely outraged that this country allows people who simply want to better themselves, and in some cases, help to better the world, and instead of helping these people to make a contribution, we are penalized and financially crippled for a lifetime. It is absolutely criminal in my mind. What can I do to help bring this issue to light? I just saw your editorial in the Baltimore Sun, and I was so relieved to FINALLY see that there is an organized movement on this issue. -Meredith Lathbury, Vermont Law School, Class of 1996, non-profit environmental attorney
To tell your story, please go here.