Harvard Law School Abandons Public Interest Program

Law School Admissions
It feels like just yesterday that we were analyzing Harvard Law School’s “new” public interest program that granted free tuition to 3L students going into careers in public interest. In fact, it was a year and a half ago. Now? That program is no more, as Harvard announces that the groundbreaking free 3L public interest program is being shut down in the wake of the economic recession and the university’s shrinking endowment.

To Harvard’s credit, those students who are currently enrolled and may have relied on this program in making their decisions to attend HLS will still be eligible for the free tuition. However, the $2.7 million price tag is rendering a great idea as nothing more than a failed experiment.


For applicants, this represents an opportunity, believe it or not. There is perhaps no better time to apply to Harvard on a public interest platform than now, as the school is no doubt sensitive to what this will do to its graduation figures years down the road. Furthermore, students are probably finding HLS less appealing as a public interest destination without that free third year, so there may be less competition for those who take that angle. Besides, the public interest fellowships and loan forgiveness programs that remain in place are still competitive with those at most top schools, even if they are more traditional in how they work (e.g., forgiveness of outstanding loans for each year of public interest work).

If you are interested in discussing various public interest programs or law school admissions in general, please give us a call at (800) 925-7737.

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