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Law School Financial Aid

Scholarships and Grants

A scholarship or grant is an award that does not have to be repaid. It may be given on the basis of need or merit or both. Most scholarships are conferred by individual law schools. Some individual organizations may also have scholarships to offer. Among them are local bar associations; fraternities, sororities, and other social clubs; religious or business organizations; and veterans’ groups. You will have to take the initiative in researching these possible scholarship resources. A number of companies offer tuition reimbursement benefits to their employees and to their employees’ dependents as well.

Federal Loans

Most law schools participate in the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP), which includes the Stafford loans. Students borrow Stafford loans through banks or other lenders. A number of schools now provide federal loans from the US Treasury through the Federal Direct Student Loan Program (FDSLP), which includes William D. Ford Federal Direct loans. Under this program, you will not be borrowing federal loans through a bank. Your loans will be disbursed directly by the law school financial aid office. Because federal programs are subject to regulation changes, you may wish to contact the law school for further information. The terms and conditions under the FDSLP and the FFELP may vary. Contact your financial aid administrator for the latest available information. There are three types of federal loans available to law students.

  • (Subsidized) Federal Stafford and Ford Loan. Up to $8,500 a year is available in subsidized Federal Stafford or Ford Loans to students who meet the need criteria.* Interest is paid by the federal government while you are enrolled in school at least half-time. You must begin repaying the loan six months after you graduate, withdraw, or drop below half time. You can obtain an application from any lender that participates in the federal loan program, or from any law school.

  • (Unsubsidized) Federal Stafford and Ford Loan. In combination with the subsidized loan, a student may borrow up to a combined total of $18,500 in subsidized and unsubsidized loans.* The amount the student receives in the subsidized loan is deducted from the $18,500 in order to determine eligibility for the unsubsidized loan (for example, if the student is only eligible for $3,000 in subsidized loans, he or she could receive $15,500 in unsubsidized loans). The combined total will be increased to $20,500 after July 1, 2007.

  • Federal Perkins Loan. This loan is available to students at some schools. Each student's award is determined by the school based on information obtained from the FAFSA. The maximum annual loan is $6,000.
  • Graduate PLUS Loans for Law Students. The Graduate PLUS loan is a new loan for law students. Beginning July 1, 2006, graduate students with an absence of bad credit may be eligible to borrow a Graduate PLUS loan. The PLUS is federally guaranteed and the interest rate is subsidized. Interest accrues while the student is in school, and repayment begins immediately. The interest rate is 8.5% fixed for the life of the loan. Forbearance is available while the student is in school. Many students who have good credit are choosing Graduate PLUS instead of private loans.

Private Loans

Private loans are approved on the basis of your credit. Lenders will analyze your credit report before approving a private loan. Most offer prequalification services on the Internet  or by phone. If you have a poor credit history, you may be denied a loan. If there is a mistake on your credit report—and there are often mistakes—you will want adequate time to correct the error. It would be wise to clear up errors or other discrepancies before you apply for a private loan.

You may want to obtain a copy of your credit report so that you can track and clear up any problems. You can order a copy by calling 1.877.322.8228 or go to You may also mail a request to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.

There are a number of private loan programs available to credit-worthy borrowers. Many of these programs allow you to borrow federal as well as private loans, which may help you keep track of your loan portfolio. Many also offer phone-in or online application for their private and federal loans. Some lenders make available postgraduate loans for bar-review study. These bar examination loans are available to most students who have good credit.

The terms and conditions of these programs vary greatly. Pay careful attention to the explanations found in loan application brochures and consumer information (available from the financial aid office of any law school). You can also contact the individual programs or visit their websites for further details.

Federal Work-Study

Federal work-study is a program that provides funding for students to work part time during the school year and full time during the summer months. Students sometimes work on campus in a variety of settings or in off-campus nonprofit agencies. Additional information is available from any law school financial aid office. Not all schools participate in the federal work-study program.

More financial aid resources

(Association of American Law Schools)

(US Department of Education)

(Free Application for Federal Student Aid)

(The Smart StudentTM Guide to Financial Aid)

(The Association for Legal Career Professionals)

(formerly National Association for Public Interest Law)

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