Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Oh Noes! Many Qualified Students Get Denied PILA Grants for Public Interest Work This Summer.

(NOTE: I am not the only contributor to this post; the other contributors wish to remain anonymous
DISCLAIMER: I was placed on the PILA summer grant wait-list).

Most top 14 Law Schools have some program or another by which one can volunteer to work over the summer and get a grant to cover their expenses. These grants vary in their amount, from $5,000 at Stanford and 4,000 at Cornell to significantly less at some other places. (NOTE: We've investigated these programs at several other top law schools, a simple google-search will find you more results on this matter).

Typically these grants are sponsored by the school itself. Not so at UVA Law, where a student organization sponsors the grants. In order to be eligible, you have to fill out an application and have done at least 10 hours of qualifying pro-bono work, and then interview - all fair enough, I guess. Last year, every eligible applicant was given a PILA grant.

But for whatever reason (and we're curious, what was the reason - see below) this year scores of students that we've talked to were denied PILA grants (many placed on the waitlist) despite meeting the qualifications. This groups includes students who have:
-already accepted a non-paying public interest job in reliance of a PILA grant (a reasonable reliance, we feel, since everyone who applied for a PILA grant got one last year).
-want to accept a public interest job but may no longer be able to.

We recognize that PILA operates under a limited budget. And we assume that PILA's criteria for disbursement - were both fair enough in principle and (we assume) application. Therefore, we think UVA Law should step up and give qualifying students who didn't get a grant and still want one an equivalent amount of money (under equivalent conditions) to do public interest work. For PILA's part, the organization has indicated that it has a ranked waitlist. We also think PILA should disclose to any waitlisted applicant who asks what their rank on the waitlist is, so that he or she may know what his chances are and decide whether or not accept a non-paying public interest job, accordingly. Bottom-line, PILA's funding limitations aren't PILA's fault, but we do wish UVA Law would step up to fill the gap.

We have heard a rumor that PILA is low on funds as a result of having to pay for the 1L suite being trashed at the PILA auction last November. We make no comments about it's veracity, here, though.

If you want to leave a comment, use the comment section . . .


Anonymous said...

Just to add to this - this year's grant went up about $500 from last year (I'm only considering the increase in the 1L grant, the 2L grant went up even more). If they plan on disbursing the same amount of money, they have effectively taken away a grant from 1 out of every 7 applicants. Does $500 make such a difference that they can justify funding fewer students?? Because I agree that everyone who undertakes a public-interest summer should receive a grant, the whole thing makes me angry.

Andy said...

Yea, I'd agree with that. I don't think the increase in money is worth leaving a significant number of applicants w.out grant.

Maybe PILA couldn't have predicted that, for whatever reason . . . anyway, I think the solution now is for UVA Law to step in and cover the difference.