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How Do I Finance Law School?

  • Law school is not cheap! According to www.legalcareers.about.com/od/lawschoolfaqs/f/lawschoolcost.htm, the average law student incurs approximately $84,000 in debt during the three years of law school. Depending upon your choice of schools, law school tuition can be up to $150,000 over three years. Tuition alone ( not counting costs of room and board) varies from $29,000 at SIU Carbondale (2009), to $31,000 at Saint Louis University (2009), $36,000 at University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign (2009), and $38,000 at Washington University. For room and board costs, you can plan on an additional $8,000 to $12,000 per year. (See www.ilrg.com/rankings/law/tuition.php for information about other law schools).

  • The question then becomes how you cover these costs. To borrow the least amount possible, you will have to be a good money manager during these three years. The ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools, 2011 Edition, provides information concerning financing law school. As an undergraduate student, you should be used to completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), available at www.fafsa.ed.gov. You will need to complete that again for each of the three years of your law school career. Depending on the results of that form, you may qualify for scholarships, grants, fellowships (all of these are important because you do NOT have to repay them), Federal Work Study (where you are paid to work on campus either full or part time, although it is not available at all law schools), or loans. Please note that part of the eligibility for loans will be a review of your credit history, so make sure you have the best credit score possible.

  • Always check with the law school(s) you are considering to see what scholarships or grants they may available that are specific to that school. It never hurts to ask!

  • There are other wonderful sources that provide assistance with locating loans and/or scholarships. Consider checking out www.AccessGroup.org, and/or www.FinAid.org. In addition, www.fastweb.com has information concerning scholarships and financial aid in general.

  • For loans you can check out the federal Stafford loan program, which often provides subsidized interest payments during your schooling, or the Sallie Mae loan company. That company has the Sallie Mae Smart Option Student Loan, where you can borrow the total of your law school costs, minus any other aid (See http://www.salliemae.com/student-loans/smart-option-student-loan/ for additional information about the law school loan process). In addition, Sallie Mae has a Scholarship Search option, wherein you complete your profile information, and you can search for scholarship opportunities that match your skills, interests and needs. See www.salliemae.com.

  • ยท If you have taken out loans, repayment may be an issue for you. For example, the ABA-LSAC Official Guide (2011 Edition) reports that if you take out $100,000 in student loans, your monthly loan repayment amount will be between $1100 and $1200. If you are interested in a legal career in the public service or public interest areas, you will not make as much money, making repayment difficult. However, ask your law school about Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAPs), which provide a forgivable loan, contingent upon completing some type of service obligation. While not every law school has these, again it is a great question to ask. Also check out the Income Based Repayment (IBR) for any loans you receive through the Federal government, or the Federal Loan Forgiveness Program. Again, these programs may be helpful if you seek a career in public service at a lower salary. Your individual law school should have additional information, or you can check out http://www.americanbar.org/groups/legal_aid_indigent_defendants/initiatives/loan_repayment_assistance_programs/state_loan_repayment_assistance_programs.html, or www.equaljusticeworks.org.

Acknowledgement is made to the ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools, 2011 Edition, for much of the information provided on this page, as well as the various websites referenced herein. Some information was also suggested by the Truman State University Pre-law/Justice Systems Program website.

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