Stress levels rise as debts do for law students

Jasleen Shokar

A report issued by the Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research revealed there has been an increase in debt-related stress in the past decade among graduate law students in the United States and Canada.  

The first survey, conducted in 2006, showed only 32 percent of law students expected to have more than $100,000 in debt by graduation, compared to 44 percent in 2015. More than half of the second group stated they had “high levels of stress and anxiety during the school year.”

Rhiannon Hamam, a third-year law student, said the majority of students are concerned about loans and debt.

“Debt after law school has been a huge concern for me, and almost took me off of the career track that I wanted,” Hamam said. “I will graduate law school with almost $200,000 in debt, and those loans are just from law school.”

Only 11 percent of public law students in 2006 reported expecting debt over 100,000 dollars, but that number grew to 31 percent in 2015.

“During my first year, I seriously considered pursuing a different career track, perhaps working at a big law firm that would pay a high starting salary so that I could pay down my debt,” Hamam said.

Daniella Martinez, a third-year law student, said many people use debt as a top factor in deciding where to begin their legal career.

“It is undoubtedly a cause of stress — especially as graduation nears. Big law jobs pay over $100,000 a year ­— and many students take on those jobs to pay back debt quicker,” Martinez said.

Plan II senior Zachary Stone has offers from law schools such as Columbia and Stanford University but chose to accept the Massey Scholarship, a full ride to UT’s School of Law. Stone said UT is the best buy for law school.

“Texas is one of the best places for UT undergrads — lowest in-state tuition and extremely generous with scholarships,” Stone said.

Ward Farnsworth, dean of UT’s School of Law, said considering both cost and opportunities, the return on investment at UT Law is the strongest anywhere.

“I wish the school were less expensive, so my highest fundraising priority is to raise money for scholarship support,” Farnsworth said. “I want this to be the best place in the country to be a law student, and a big part of that is keeping the cost low.”