Thursday, 17 February 2011
The demise of the last loan; LPC funding now even more limited
The Natwest loan was up to £25k when studying for a professional course such as the LPC, with repayments delayed for up to a year following study and interest rates lower than a 'standard' loan. According to the JLD the nearest finance available now is a loan of up to £10k at normal interest rates where the interest accrued during study is paid by a government department. Not really much of an alternative when the average LPC fees are now £10k minimum.
I do not think, unfortunately, that this will be the reality. For students of a more affluent background, lack of support will not be a problem. Affluence is no guarantee of quality. There was a girl on my LPC for whom daddy paid so that she might follow in his footsteps and become a high powered lawyer. She is now, 2 years later, studying to become a teacher. She wasn't a bad student per se but she isn't a lawyer and her failed foray into lawyerdom was not hindered by LPC fees. Obviously not all wealthy students are the same but never the less the lack of funding options will not stop students like her enrolling.
It would have, however, stopped my criminal lawyer friend, arguably the most determined and passionate of all my fellow LPCer's and whose maximum loan funded his GDL and LPC. It would have stopped another of my fellow students, a single mum aiming for a career in legal aid family law. The legal aid market is an important part of the justice system but has understandably lower resources available for LPC fees when compared to commercial competitors. The loan withdrawal is going to hit the pool of budding legal aid lawyers hard.
It would have stopped me, at least for a couple of years until I had worked long enough to be able to afford it. I was not one of the surplus - I had a training contract. My firm were even willing to pay for my fees. The cost of living was just too big for me to tackle it on my own. My parents are not poor but they were supporting both my sister and I through uni. The biggest credit limit I could get was a £500 student credit card, I would have been laughed out the door had I tried to apply for a normal loan to cover the cost. It is probably (I hope!) harder after the financial crisis. The other question at the back of my mind is niggling - would my firm have waited?
Something really needs to be done about this and fast. The LPC application season is fast approaching. 3rd year law students have arguably more important things to worry about like dissertations and finals than how they are going to pay for fees come September.
I do not have the answer. Perhaps law students ought to protest about this (it seems to be in vogue at the moment). Although against who I have not yet decided..... any suggestions?