Foundation Focus: Loan Repayment Assistance Program of Minnesota


Loan Repayment Assistance Program of Minnesota (LRAP) has been around for 30 years. Its mission is to help reduce the education debt burden experienced by dedicated public interest lawyers who represent low-income clients seeking legal services to secure essential needs like food, shelter and safety, and fundamental rights like equal access to justice. “Our mission grounds our work,” said Dee Baskin, executive director of LRAP.

Student loan debt is the same no matter the job, but legal aid attorneys earn one-third of what their counterparts at major law firms earn. In most cases, they do not receive bonuses or additional benefits. It can be difficult for legal aid attorneys, facing high student loan debt, to pay basic expenses such as rent or mortgage, car payments or public transportation fees, and the increasing costs of childcare, if applicable. Not to mention the struggle to put money into savings for emergencies or other needs. LRAP exists to fill this gap. LRAP provides loan repayment assistance to nearly 50 public service attorneys—who serve 10,000 low-income Minnesotans—each year. The lives of low-income clients are profoundly impacted by the services these attorneys provide.

Grants from foundations and law firms, as well as individual donations, go directly to paying the loans of legal aid attorneys. During a typical year, LRAP offers two application cycles. An awards committee, composed of members of the LRAP Board of Directors, reviews all applications. Applicants are legal aid attorneys with a demonstrated financial need working in Minnesota.

LRAP applicants could have up to $200,000-$300,000 in debt. The awards committee aims to relieve a significant portion of income-driven repayment amounts for all qualified applicants. However, based on funding and number of applications, it could vary. LRAP prioritizes years of experience in legal aid employment as they help applicants work toward public service loan forgiveness after 10 years.

Legal aid organizations do not want high turnover. Experienced attorneys, those who can handle a larger volume of complex cases, are needed and valued in the legal aid field. “A lot of people leave legal aid because they cannot afford to be there,” said Baskin, “It is so important that we have as many attorneys as possible handling increasing caseloads.” The volume and quality of work provided by legal aid attorneys would not be possible without LRAP. Without loan help from LRAP, many attorneys would be forced to leave the work they love—work that helps low-income members of the community—for private-sector employment.

One such attorney is Katie Allen of Neighborhood Justice Center in St. Paul. Allen represents clients at Ramsey County’s Mental Health Court. This role allows her to spend extra time with each client to determine their mental health needs. She recently helped a young man who had been experiencing homelessness receive in-patient treatment instead of jail time for mental illness and chemical dependency. Over the last year—especially with prominent law enforcement sweeps of homeless encampments, and other instances of housing insecurity related to the COVID-19 crisis—these services have become more important than ever.

LRAP is always working to expand its reach. To help, attorneys can share the message of LRAP’s work, refer attorneys in public service, and keep up with LRAP on social media. Contact Dee Baskin at with any questions or visit