Ex-Law Student Forfeits Legal Name to Repay Student Debt

Man offering blank business card
The possibilities are limitless for Jason Madsen.

Soon, he could be legally called “Bob’s Supermarket,” or his last name can be “.com.” He doesn’t mind, as long as his student loan debts are paid off.

Madsen, an ex-law student, is among a small group of indebted students who are willing to do crazy stunts to repay their large outstanding student loan debts.

His ebay listing starts at $75,000 and involves Madsen legally changing his name for two years to whatever the highest bidder wants. He will ever wear or drive promotional items such as t-shirts or advertising cars for a business if that is desired.

But how did Madsen get so desperate?

He was enrolled in law school and about to enter his second year at North Carolina-based Charlotte School of Law when his financial aid was denied. His Grad Plus Loan was denied due to “adverse credit” but he thinks it involved a high debt-to-income ratio, which is common for law students.

But Grad Plus Loans take a borrower’s and co-signers’ credit score into account, and due to the recession, Madsen was hit hard.

“I feel like I was denied for being poor and having poor friends and family,” he said.

Madsen was offered private student loans, but he didn’t want to head down that path. Instead, he was left with over $60,000 in student loan debt which reached $100,000 with other educational expenses. 

Madsen is now weighed down by a large balance, without a degree to justify its worth.

“I don’t want to be an indentured servant to the Department of Education for the rest of my life,” he said.

Madsen is aware of how crazy his scheme sounds. He said the odds of someone seriously bidding are ridiculous, but “that’s kind of the point.”

“My hope is that the ridiculous nature of the listing will start a dialog about legal education,” Madsen said. “We live in an age where access to information is virtually free, and yet tuition and textbook prices keep getting higher and higher.”

He points out that law schools require students to purchase expensive casebooks, averaging about $300, when they can be found online for free. Professors want the students to purchase them for the “notes and commentary” which ends up being one to two pages of “useless dribble.”

He also finds fault with American Bar Association (ABA) rules, which limits the number of hours a law student can work per week. The limit is 20 hours.

“If a student wants to go to law school full-time and work forty or more hours a week, let them,” Madsen said.

He also felt that the Charlotte School of Law lied to him about job placement statistics. When he enrolled, the school claimed that over 90 percent of its students were employed nine months after graduation. Once the ABA set limitations on these statistics, requiring that the jobs be in the legal field, his school’s statistics dropped drastically to 34 percent.

Since the past cannot be undone, Madsen is taking action by sacrificing his legal name.  

He said he is open to any name, as long as it does not offend any race, religion or sexual orientation. Beyond that, he is fine with anything, however promotional or entertaining.

The possibilities truly are limitless, as long as the message gets across.

“If I have to change my name to a ridiculous phrase or business name in order to draw attention to this crisis — I’ll do it.”