Financing Law School
Legal education is an investment in your future and is 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. LSAC.org 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 set up a "Cost of Attendance" that includes the maximum financial aid you may receive for tuition and living expenses. 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 government and private sources at low and moderate interest rates may be 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 and the federal GradPLUS loan. 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 may be available at higher (and often variable) 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 with an ABA-mandated limitation on the number of hours full-time law students are permitted to work.
Changes in financial aid rules and regulations are ongoing, and 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.
QUESTIONS TO ASK ABOUT FINANCIAL AID
As you speak with representatives from law schools, here are some of the questions you should ask as a prospective law student:
- Are there forms in addition to the FAFSA that I must complete for your school?
- Does your school have a priority deadline for the FAFSA?
- How is eligibility for financial aid determined at your school?
- Does your school consider parental income information?
- What does your cost of attendance include?
- What kinds of scholarships are available? Specifically, ask about merit- and need-based scholarships.
- What types of loans are available? What is your average loan debt?
- Will I be able to work during law school? Are there any on-campus jobs or work-study positions available?
- What is the job placement rate at your law school, and what is the salary range for your graduates?
Keep in mind that the law school is the primary source of information regarding money for legal education.
While this information from http://www.lsac.org/jd/finance/financial-aid-questions.asp is a good place to begin, we recommend going directly to that site and watching the on-line video tutorials and attending the on-campus recruitment visits at TTU from various law school representatives to ask questions one-on-one regarding your personal financial situation. As the www.lsac.org site indicates, financial aid for law school is constantly undergoing change depending upon both congressional and state decisions, so you must be very vigilant about your own application process.