The issue I take with this is that law schools tell you to get your finances in order before attending. No one has to go to law school straight out of undergrad, nor do people have to go to law school full-time. There are plenty of options that make law school more affordable if you are willing to take them- like going part-time or taking a scholarship from a lesser ranked school. If someone goes to have their debt consolidated so that they can pay off the balances within 5 years, maybe that person needs to wait until that debt is paid off to continue his/her education or attend a part-time program that will allow him/her to work while in school.
This is a personal finance issue should not be for us/someone else to determine. Yes, if someone is trying to wrap consumer debt into educational loans to avoid paying them/get a lower rate/etc. you could have issue with that practice. However, if a student has consumer debt or chooses to use consumer debt to finance their way toward an advanced degree, he/she should not be denied admission (to law school or the Bar) based on that fact alone. If he/she files bankruptcy or has another serious legal issue related to debt, then there is a cause of action the Bar needs to address. Because someone has resorted to these debt instruments to attend the best school he/she can (telling someone to go to a lesser school because they have debt/can't afford it is discriminatory) is his/her choice.
My two thoughts:I know a guy who just graduated law school and the forces that be won't let him take the bar in GA because of too much debt (not sure how much it was, but $20K would probably be in the ballpark). So, you'll want to check the state where you want to practice ahead of time.Someone mentioned taking out additional private student loans to cover the $20K. It's my understanding that you can only take out student loans up to the maximum budget allowed by your school, regardless of whether the loans are public or private. If you want to take out more than the budget, your school has to raise your maximum. Of course, $20K in debt may persuade your school to raise the maximum. But then again, whoever said you can't use your student loans to pay off past debt may be right. Definitely something to check on.