Get a Law School Loan
Find the Right Loan Provider for Your Educational Needs
Getting-in to Law School adds even more tuition costs to your higher education tally, so chances are you’ll be in the market for graduate school student loans. Undergraduate obligations are met with the help of far-reaching federal financial aid programs, like Pell Grants and Direct Loans, but graduate needs present unique considerations for law students, and others seeking advanced degrees.
Government options exist for borrowers financing law education, which typically present some of the most attractive terms for students. And private lenders support advanced education with financial products designed for graduate students. Private personal loans carry competitive interest rates, but these are not government-backed initiatives, so markets determine lending conditions.
Law Students Borrow Graduate Federal Loans
Federal Loans Specifically Designated for Graduate Students
Private lenders once played greater roles in higher education financing, because the federal financial aid system partnered with private sources to supply student loans for undergraduates and graduate students. Applicants were approved and backed by federal programs, but funds were administered by private banks and credit unions. Today, the U.S.Department of Education acts as its own primary lender, to dispense loans to qualified student-borrowers.
Law students benefit from a graduate school loan initiative that is part of the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program. Graduate-level applicants, and professional degree candidates are eligible to apply for PLUS Loans, which are applied to law school tuition, fees and related expenses. The program serves parents of undergraduates, who borrow to supplement their children’s own financial aid efforts, and independent degree candidates studying law and other graduate subjects.
Loans are credit-based, so they differ from those issued by undergraduate programs, which come without regard for credit performance. PLUS Loans carry competitive fixed interest rates, which do not change over the life of a loan. Currently, the low rate is fixed at 7.9%. Borrowing limits are set according to student needs, so the amount borrowed for each academic term may not exceed the total cost of attendance, minus any other aid received.
Qualified applicants are enrolled at least half-time, in academic programs which grant degrees and certificates. General federal financial aid eligibility requirements are applicable to PLUS participants, so undergraduates with borrowing success, carry eligibility into the graduate program. As with all federally-backed financial aid, PLUS loans are administered with the help of a standardized application for financial aid. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the only accepted request for federal student assistance, so undergraduates and graduate-level law school students each file timely FAFSA information. Use your school’s filing deadlines, and always strive to submit your FAFSA early in each calendar year.
Standard credit references are required, which can be problematic for college-aged applicants with limited credit histories. Two remedies exist for those seeking funding without adequate credit. An endorser, or cosigner, may be added to your application, to bolster credit references, and provide additional guarantees that the loan will be repaid. And in some instances, the federal government will consider extenuating circumstances, when evaluating applicants with adverse credit entries.
Borrowers are required to submit Master Promissory Notes, and pay loan origination fees totalling 4% of each loan’s value.
When To Use Private Loans to Fund a Law Degree
Private resources are available for law school borrowers, but they are approached differently than government-backed programs:
- Wrong way: Fail to file your FAFSA and use private student loans as a first resort.
- Right way: Use private borrowing as an auxiliary loan program, that covers limited, unfunded expenses associated with your education.
Borrow only what you need for education expenses, and only after you’ve applied for federally sponsored assistance. Some financial products are specially packaged as private Law School Loans. Features may include higher loan limits and no payments until after you graduate. Small, short term loans are also available to cover the expenses of taking the bar exam.
The American Bar Association reports that the average monthly student loan payment for new attorneys is a little over $1,000 each month, so borrowing requires prudent evaluation.
Law School Loans and Programs You May Not Know About
Individual Law campuses administer wide-ranging financial assistance program for enrolled students, including endowed scholarships and grants for low-income high-achievers. Check with your law school, some offer limited loan forgiveness for law graduates who agree to work in government or public sector roles following graduation. These recent alternative law loan repayment examples inspire students to think outside the box for law school financing:
- Hofstra University Law School Loan Repayment Program is offered in limited scope, only to highly-qualified graduates. Law graduates who work for non-profit or other eligible public service law practices, for at least a year, earning less than $56,000, are invited to apply.
- AmeriCorps’ Pro Bono Legal Corps funds a national corps of freshly-minted law school graduates. In exchange for volunteer legal work, participants receive these considerations: student loan forbearance, a monthly living stipend, an “education award voucher” to use as partial payment for federal student loans.
What about loan forgiveness?
Government agencies, like the Department of Justice put-forth recruitment programs that benefit law school graduates holding outstanding student loans. Employees of the agency, serving in roles as attorneys, are encouraged to apply for the Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program. Participants agree to serve with Justice, for a period of at least three-years, following the acceptance of funds. ASLRP awards are paid directly to lenders, and must be repaid if service obligations are not met.