Paying for Law School

Do you dream of one day sitting on the Supreme Court of the United States? Or maybe you’d like to spend your time defending the innocent, or helping the little guy fight city hall. Or you’re just fascinated with America’s legal system and process, and would like to make a good living doing what you love. In any of these cases, you’ve got to go to law school to make your dream come true. And to attend law school these day, unless you’re independently wealthy, you’re probably going to have to take out a law school loan. Since 1985, average law school tuition has more than tripled. A year of tuition at a public law school is now over $20,000 a year, and average tuition at private law schools is around $30,000 a year.

Clearly, getting a legal education without taking advantage of a law school loan is going to be next to impossible for all but a few wealthy Americans. But the financial rewards that come with a juris doctor degree make taking out a student loan to pay for law school an attractive financial proposition. The average law school graduate leaves school with around $80,000 in student loan debt. That may sound like a lot, but when looked at in relation to the income that lawyers enjoy, it’s really not that much. The average salary for all lawyers in America is well over $100,000 a year; some law school graduates get jobs paying more than that immediately upon graduation. So don’t let the cost of law school deter you.

There are lots of law school loans available. The federal government is the biggest source of loans to those pursing a legal career. The Stafford loan program makes available up to $18,500 per year in low interest, long term loans to law school students. And for a portion of this, the government will even subsidize the interest payments while you’re still in school. And don’t worry if you’ve already taken out some Stafford loans for your undergraduate degree-you can borrow up to $138,500 total under the Stafford program, undergraduate and graduate combined. And if $18,500 isn’t enough, there are several sources of private loans to help you bridge the gap.

Sallie Mae, the world’s largest student loan company, has a program called LAWLOAN. With LAWLOAN, you may borrow up to the total cost of your education, minus whatever other aid you’ve received. Nellie Mae, a division of Sallie Mae, has a similar program called Excel Loan.

While the interest rates on these private loans is going to be a bit higher than on federal law school loans, they’re still much lower than a typical consumer loan, and can definitely play a role in your total financial aid package. And more and more governments and even law schools are offering to forgive the student loans of graduates who agree to serve several years in a public service job or government job after they graduate. So don’t hesitate to take out a law school loan-it can be one of the best investments you ever make.