Content of the material
- Map Out All of the Ways to Pay for Law School
- Consider Taking Out Federal Loans
- Private Law School Loan Rates Can be Lucrative for Responsible Borrowers
- Federal Work-Study Offers Law Students Money & Public Service Opportunity
- Room and board
- What Resources Can You Get from Law Schools?
- Other costs and expenses
- Food, transportation, and other personal expenses
- Can you get a full scholarship to Harvard Law?
- Financial Aid Trends
- How to Reduce Law School Costs
Map Out All of the Ways to Pay for Law School
First, you should visit your school’s financial aid office to begin your search for financial aid and scholarship information. Many law schools offer financial aid in the form of scholarships, loans, and student employment, but they may not be enough to cover your law school tuition. To receive federal student aid in the form of grants and loans, you must fill out the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA).
Consider Taking Out Federal Loans
Typically federal loans are offered directly through the financial aid office at a university, and repayment generally starts six months after graduation. Federal loan rates are determined by when they are issued and borrowers should check with the Department of Education for exact rates.
|Type of loan||Rates and costs (through 7/1/16)||Maximum borrowing per year|
|Federal Stafford Loan||Fixed 5.84%, with a loan fee of more than 1%. Interest accrues with loan origination.||$20,500|
|Graduate PLUS Loan||Fixed 6.84%, with a loan fee of more than 4%. Interest accrues with loan origination.||Amount up to the school’s Cost of Attendance minus the amount of all other financial aid you are receiving (including other loans).|
|Federal Perkins Loan||Fixed 5%; no loan fees. Interest accrues with the start of the repayment period.||$8,000|
These federal loans come with certain repayment benefits, such as the ability to qualify for income-based repayment or loan forgiveness for qualifying loans under the Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program. However, this benefit can be limited in scope and prospective law students should weigh the pros and cons carefully.
Private Law School Loan Rates Can be Lucrative for Responsible Borrowers
Private loans are usually used by students who want or need an alternative to federal loans. Rates are determined by borrower’s creditworthiness, and can vary widely from lender to lender. For some financially responsible borrowers, rates may be more competitive than even federal loans.
Federal Work-Study Offers Law Students Money & Public Service Opportunity
While Federal Work Study Programs are not offered to first-year law students, second and third-year students can work part-time at non-profit and government legal offices. The program gives legal offices the chance to work with low-cost student workers and offers students valuable public service experience.
Keep in mind that if you have prior loans from an undergraduate or another graduate program, it may be possible for you to defer those payments while you’re in law school. Contact your lenders to confirm the deferment process.
Above all, the most important thing to do when considering how to pay for law school is to make a plan. Whether you use savings or take out loans to pay for your law education, budget your money wisely first and foremost.
Room and board
Each law school publishes their expectation for living expenses to cover the cost of a law student’s housing and food expenses for an academic year. Keep in mind that these are expectations for the average cost for such expenses and don’t include expenses if you have a special circumstance.
What might be a special circumstance? Well, things like having a family or needing to support another person aren’t going to be factored into your room and board.
The good news is that, unlike tuition, room and board is something that you have some ability to control. It’s a perfect time in your life to continue living like a student with roommates and sharing expenses. Even if you can’t live with roommates, you can continue to keep costs down by delaying expensive purchases like buying a home or “upgrading” to a larger living space.
Room and board expenses will also increase over the three years of law school, so plan for that as well. I’d estimate that your room and board expenses will increase by at least 3% each year to cover inflation.
Law schools do not include your summer expenses in their room and board calculations, which means you’ll have to figure out a way to fund rent and food during the summer months. When you’re calculating how much law school costs, you need to factor in that you’ll also have to cover these expenses, so the entire cost of your JD program might be $20,000 – $30,000 more than you expected when simply looking at the tuition and room and board numbers.
What Resources Can You Get from Law Schools?
Regardless of what law school you wind up at, be sure to use any available resources. One way to ensure you’re doing so is by staying in contact with your law school’s career services office. They will often offer free resume and cover letter review, connect you with mentors, invite alumni to campus for networking events, host mock interviews, and provide useful information about job opportunities.
You should also get to know your school’s law librarians. They can provide you with helpful information and insights for your essay assignments and show you how to use the complimentary legal research tools, such as Westlaw and LexisNexis, that your law school may provide.
Other costs and expenses
Tuition isn’t the only cost associated with law school. Let’s look at some of the other costs you’ll be expected to pay as a law student.
Housing options and costs vary from school to school. Many schools offer on-campus housing, while others require you to live off campus. Unsurprisingly, housing in large cities is generally more expensive than housing in rural areas. The cost of living associated with the location of your law school is an important factor to consider when choosing a law school.Enjuris tip: Get in touch with the financial aid department at the law school you’re planning to attend well before the start of the school year. Often, they will be able to put you in touch with other incoming students looking for housing. Living with a roommate is a great way to save on housing. Also, consider attending a law school located near family. Living with family during law school is a great way to save money and guarantee a good meal every night!
Textbooks might not seem like a significant cost when compared to tuition and housing, but law school books can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $2,250 per year.
Fortunately, there are ways to keep your book costs down. For example:
- Buy used books (assuming your professor doesn’t require a book that was just published)
- Search for better deals online before purchasing a book at the school bookstore
- Consider renting a book from a site like Campus Book Rentals
- Re-sell your books at the end of the semester and use the money to help purchase next semester’s books
Food, transportation, and other personal expenses
Law schools are required to calculate the total “living expenses” for a single, full-time student living on-campus, off-campus, and at home. These living expenses are supposed to include everything you need to attend law school with the exception of tuition and fee charges.
To find the living expenses for your school, identify your school from the drop-down menu and generate the Standard 509 Report on the ABA Required Disclosures website.
Keep in mind, however, that the living expenses provided are just an estimate. You need to consider your personal situation when deciding how much to budget. For example, do you have a car? Is there public transportation where your law school is located? Do you have unique medical expenses?
In addition, keep in mind that the “living expenses” estimated only cover the academic year. You’ll need to budget enough to get you through the summer months as well.
Can you get a full scholarship to Harvard Law?
No, you cannot get a full scholarship to Harvard Law School in 2022.
If they offered fully-funded scholarships, it will reduce the amount of money reserved for financial aid in 2022, and that will increase the debt burden of students who need it.
While you may not be able to get a full scholarship, their financial aid program covers a part of the cost of attendance. This doesn’t stop you from applying for external scholarships.
Financial Aid Trends
One form of financial aid for law students are conditional scholarships. Conditional scholarships are awarded to students on the basis that they maintain a good grade point average or class standing. Conditional scholarships have decreased in popularity over the years, and the students who do have them have become less likely to lose them.
- From 2011 to 2012 roughly 61.4% of law schools had conditional scholarships.
- From 2019 to 2020 roughly 42.6% of law schools had conditional scholarships.
- 36.1% of law students lost their conditional scholarships from 2011 to 2012.
- 9.8% of law students lost their conditional scholarships from 2019 to 2020.
- From 2011 to 2012 the average grant aid for law school was $4,760.
- During that same school year, public school students received $3,350 in grant aid.
- During that same school year, private school students received $5,340 in grant aid.
- In 2018, 6% of law school students received institutional grants paying the full cost of their tuition.
- In 2018, 29% of law school students received institutional grants paying off at least half the cost of their tuition.
How to Reduce Law School Costs
If the cost of law school makes you nervous, there are ways to reduce your expenses and make it more affordable.
- Attend a public, in-state school: Generally, attending a public school in the state you reside is more affordable than attending a private school or one that is out-of-state. By attending an in-state public school, you could potentially save tens of thousands of dollars in tuition costs alone.
- Research local living expenses: Review the average living costs around your desired universities, and consider attending school in a cheaper area if possible. This could save you thousands each year in housing and food costs.
- Ask your employer for help: If you’re employed, you may be eligible for tuition reimbursement from your employer. Many companies will cover some or all of your costs if you decide to get a degree that could benefit the company.
- Get stellar grades: Getting excellent grades and acing the LSATs can help you be a more attractive law school candidate. Many schools give substantial scholarships to exemplary students, so it pays to put in the work to bring up your GPA. For example, Cornell University’s Charles Evan Hughes Scholarship covers the full cost of tuition and is based on academic merit.