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Debt Wizard

Michigan Law Unveils Calculator to Help Students Explore Ways of Servicing Law School Debt

Feb. 28, 2013

The University of Michigan Law School today unveils the first of its kind Debt Wizard—a calculator that provides a simple method for students to explore different ways to service their prospective law school debt. The calculator provides insight into how students can afford potential careers by showing the options they have depending on: job goals, potential salaries for those careers, housing costs in various geographic markets, and payments they can expect to make under four different repayment plans.

"This is our effort to represent 11,000 possible repayment paths, which in turn can serve as a basis for exploration of law school and career choices," said Dean Evan Caminker. "We hope this model will allow law school applicants to begin developing a sense of how location, housing costs, career type, level of law school federal loan debt, and level of income interact in monthly budgets during the initial period following graduation.”

With the calculator, current and potential law students may choose from a few variables: type of post-graduate employment, geographic market, and law school debt level. Choosing one of each variable produces a graph that displays a rich array of data illustrating 12 possible levels of annual salary (based on National Association for Law Placement (NALP) data for law grads across the nation). As one moves the cursor over each of the four approaches, a rollover box appears that shows a monthly breakdown of net income and the estimated amount necessary to manage law school debt plus housing; the percentage of monthly net (post-tax) income that the debt+plus+housing amount represents; and the remaining monthly income available.

The results neither predict nor promise, particularly with regard to the likelihood of obtaining any given job, which will vary widely among law schools and between individuals. The calculator is intended to help current and potential students to understand their options.

"In today's economy, prospective law students are rightly focusing on finances," said Sarah Zearfoss, senior assistant dean for admissions, financial aid, and career planning. "The Debt Wizard helps to fulfill our obligation—speaking both generally as an institution of higher education and specifically as a public university—to provide some tools to grapple with the considerable complexities."

For more information, please visit the Debt Wizard.

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