Financing Law School
Financial Aid: An Overview
Legal education is an investment in your future and is, in most cases, a serious financial investment as well. As with any investment, it is important to consider the pros and cons of entering into such a large expenditure of effort, time, and money. Particularly in uncertain financial times, a realistic assessment of why you are seeking a legal education and how you will pay for it is critical.
The single best source of information about financing a legal education is the financial aid office (or the website) of any LSAC-member law school. This site provides links to many law schools as well as several good sources of financial aid information.
The cost of a law school education could exceed $150,000. Tuition alone can range from a few thousand dollars to more than $50,000 a year. When calculating the total cost of attending law school, you also have to include the cost of housing, food, books, transportation, and personal expenses. Law schools will determine the student expense budget for you. Today, approximately 80 percent of law school students rely on education loans as their primary, but not exclusive, source of financial aid for law school. These loans must be paid back, and the more a student borrows, the longer the debt will have an impact on a student's life after graduation. Loans from governmental and private sources at low and moderate interest rates are available to qualified students. Both federal and private loans are based on the law school's estimate of your need and the overall cost of attendance. Credit history is a factor for private loans. Students must have excellent credit to be approved for most private loans. Typically, the lowest interest rates are associated with federal loans; private education loans are available at higher rates. Institutional loans may be available from the school. Scholarships, grants, and fellowships exist, but are limited. Some students are offered part-time employment through the federal work-study program in their second and third years of law school. First-year students are expected to concentrate fully on schoolwork.
Changes in financial aid rules and regulations are ongoing. Law school policies vary. Therefore, it is your responsibility to stay current and to educate yourself about financial aid in much the same way that you research law schools when deciding where to apply.