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Frequently Asked Questions

The Gates Public Service Law Program was created in November 2005 to honor William H. Gates, Sr., a prominent Washington state attorney and public servant who is also a University of Washington School of Law alumnus (Class of 1950). Each year, the program awards full-ride scholarships to five first-year students entering the J.D. program at the UW School of Law.

During the two years since the programs’ establishment, potential applicants have frequently asked the questions that follow. We hope that by providing answers to them here, we will facilitate the application and selection processes, as well as assist you in the preparation of your application.

What is the definition of public service for purposes of the Gates PSL Program?
For a detailed definition, see "Obligations of scholars".

Are there financial limits to the employment choices I can make?
You can choose any type of public service employment that meets the definition under “Obligations of Scholars.” There is a compensation limit that applies – it does not prevent you from taking any public service law position that meets the definition. But exceeding the limit may result in a requirement that you repay a portion of the loan over time.

How does the compensation limit operate?
The compensation limit is based on the United States government pay scales (GS scales) and is further based on the region where the Scholar will be working. see: http://www.opm.gov/oca/09tables/. After reviewing a wide range of known public service salaries the Program Advisory Board set the limits as follows:

  • First year of employment following graduation – GS 11 Step 1
  • Second year of employment following graduation -- GS 11 Step 5
  • Third year of employment following graduation -- GS 12 Step 1
  • Fourth year of employment following graduation -- GS 12 Step 5
  • Fifth year of employment following graduation, and after -- GS 13 step 1.
For the Seattle Region in 2009 these levels equate to the following salaries:
Grade Step 1 Step 2 Step 3 Step 4 Step 5 Step 6 Step 7 Step 8 Step 9 Step 10
1 21234 21943 22649 23352 24058 24473 25171 25874 25902 26565
2 23874 24442 25231 25902 26191 26961 27731 28501 29271 30041
3 26048 26916 27784 28652 29520 30388 31256 32124 32992 33860
4 29243 30218 31192 32167 33141 34116 35090 36065 37040 38014
5 32718 33808 34899 35990 37081 38171 39262 40353 41444 42534
6 36469 37685 38900 40116 41331 42547 43762 44977 46193 47408
7 40527 41878 43229 44580 45931 47282 48633 49984 51335 52687
8 44883 46379 47876 49372 50868 52365 53861 55357 56853 58350
9 49573 51225 52878 54530 56183 57835 59488 61140 62793 64445
10 54592 56412 58231 60051 61870 63690 65509 67329 69148 70968
11 59978 61977 63975 65974 67973 69971 71970 73969 75968 77966
12 71889 74285 76681 79076 81472 83868 86264 88660 91055 93451
13 85487 88336 91186 94036 96886 99735 102585 105435 108285 111134
14 101019 104386 107754 111122 114490 117858 121226 124594 127962 131330
15 118828 122789 126750 130711 134672 138633 142594 146555 150516 153200
Example: Scholar A graduates in 2009 and obtains a qualifying public service law position in Seattle. If Scholar A’s starting salary is $65,000 then it is in excess of $59,978 by $5,092. The amount of loan forgiveness that Scholar A would otherwise be entitled to for that year would be reduced by $5,092. Scholar A would have the ten year time period of the promissory note to repay the excess.

Why is there a compensation limit?
Public service is intentionally defined broadly by the Program. One of the central purposes of the Gates Public Service Law Program is to enable and encourage Recipients to work in relatively lower paying public service law positions without being burdened by substantial law school debt repayment obligations. Accordingly, if, during any year of the five year Public Service obligation, the Recipient's compensation from her or his post-graduate Public Service employment exceeds a certain amount, the amount of loan forgiveness for that year will be reduced on a dollar-for-dollar basis for each dollar earned in excess of the Compensation Limit. The compensation limit does not prevent a Scholar from accepting any public service position that qualifies under the Program definition.

If the compensation limit applies to the employment I choose how is the repayment handled? How do I pay back my percentage and what period of time do I have to make repayment?
In the event of earnings in excess of the Compensation Limits the Scholar is required to make quarterly repayments beginning the first day of the next quarter following the first date the Scholar is in “default” (i.e. receiving a salary above the compensation limit). The maximum repayment period may not exceed 10 years (120 months) divided into 40 quarterly (every three months) payment periods. Payment of principal together with interest and charges shall be made in equal quarterly installments established by the University.

If my goal after graduation is to do public service with an international organization, will that type of work satisfy the Gates PSL Scholarship’s public service requirement?
As long as the public service work fits within the Gates PSL Program guidelines, your post-graduate public service law work can be accomplished anywhere in the world.

Last updated 5/15/2012