Osgoode Hall Law School at York University announced on Sept. 15 news of an innovative five-year pilot program that will see a minimum of five juris doctor (JD) students per year offered admission to the law school on an income-contingent loan basis.
Starting in 2015, eligible JD students will not pay tuition while at Osgoode, but will agree to repay the tuition when their income affords them the ability to do so. If their income never reaches that point, the loan will be completely forgiven.
“This program will provide an entirely new way to access legal education, and when combined with bursaries, scholarships and graduation awards, will advance our goal that every admitted student should be able to obtain legal education at Osgoode regardless of financial means,” said Osgoode Dean Lorne Sossin.
The Income Contingent Loan Pilot Program is one of a range of accessibility initiatives that Osgoode has introduced in recent years.
In addition to its existing bursary and scholarship programs that distribute more than $3.5 million annually in financial assistance to Osgoode students, the law school established an accessibility fund in 2012 that has spent an additional $800,000 to further support accessibility.
To date, the accessibility fund has provided funds for: the Osgoode Opportunities Renewable Entrance Awards that offer full-tuition rebates for two entering JD students with high financial need; the Wendy Babcock Social Justice Award for graduating students seeking to pursue public interest careers; the Osgoode@125 Fund, a student-led initiative to raise money for debt relief, which will be matched by both the law school and alumni through this year’s annual fund solicitation; and the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) prep course to ensure the pool of Osgoode applicants remains diverse and inclusive.
Sossin said the Income Contingent Loan Pilot Program will receive $1 million in initial funding. Several key aspects of the program, such as eligibility and selection criteria, will be worked out in the coming months. The pilot program will be evaluated over a five-year period to ensure that it is furthering the goals of financial accessibility and inclusion in the JD program.
“Income-contingent loans represent a progressive alternative to the existing financing options at Osgoode,” Sossin said. “They do not take the place of government loans, Osgoode bursaries or scholarships, but rather build on them. While we would welcome greater public investment in universities – and legal education in particular – which could allow us to reduce tuition in the future, we need to do what we can now to enhance financial accessibility in light of the realities we face.”
More details are available online on Dean Sossin’s blog.