Law school student debt resources

Posted in CLE, Technology

With the announcement of the Avvo law school and undergraduate scholarships, we at Avvo have been thinking a lot about the cost to attend law school, how law students finance it, and how they pay it back.

Law school is no longer a “ticket to a life of comfort and prestige.” Consequently, the number of law students who go to law school by default without having done some, if not a lot, of research has declined. But there remains a core group who barge headlong into the legal profession without giving the cost of law school, their reasons for going, or the burden to pay off debt much thought.

For both groups of these pre-law aspirants — intentional law students and by-default enrollees — current law students, and law graduates living with student debt, we collected some quality resources from the Web to help identify the right school, weigh costs with anticipated returns, balance your budget while paying off loans, and maybe even try something new to bring down your monthly payment.

Law school transparency

If you are contemplating law school, do not, I repeat, do not, look at the U.S. News & World Report law school rankings. If you’ve looked already, don’t bother to look again. Chances are you can already name the top 10 law schools in the country. Hint: They’re the ones affiliated with the top universities. If you want to work on Wall Street or with a giganto firm in a large city, aim high and try to get into one of those schools. The rest of the law school-seeking masses should embrace and spend lots of time at the Law School Transparency website. Kyle McEntee and what is and has been, effectively, his non-profit skeleton crew have built an amazing site with a wealth of valuable data. When I applied to law school over 10 years ago, I spent a great deal of time looking at LSAC reports, comparing tuition, cost of living, and employment statistics. Law School Transparency has all that data. They also have gone to great lengths to validate their data, so you can feel safe relying on it as you make a very expensive decision.

Loan Repayment Assistance Programs

Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAPs) are another valuable resource for prospective, current and graduated law students. Through these programs, law grads who go into public interest, government or other lower-paying legal service jobs can receive financial assistance through their law schools to pay back their loans. While these programs are common at many law schools, they are by no means ubiquitous. Compiled in the appendix to this post is a list of law schools that do not have LRAPs available. If you’re interested in public interest work, keep in mind that the schools listed in the appendix to this post may not be the best for you. Alternatively, for current and graduated law students, if your school is not listed, that means it has an LRAP. You might want to determine if you’re eligible for it and whether your current or prospective debt burden might be lifted through it.

Law school student debt calculators

A number of law schools offer law student debt calculators. Here are some that we found helpful:

  • Georgetown University Law Center
  • University Michigan School of Law
  • Boston University School of Law
  • Northwestern University School of Law

Student loan refinancing options

The private loan industry largely dried up after the Great Recession. However, in recent years a few private lenders have re-entered the market and are offering some interesting alternatives. Three examples include Pave, SoFi and CommonBond. Each uses crowd-funding to collect money to lend to student borrowers or graduate debtors. In many cases, these loans are not significantly cheaper than traditional loans, but they do offer more flexible repayment options.

Pave, for example, will defer student loan payments if a graduate debtor goes to graduate school or makes less than one and one-half times the poverty level. Traditional lenders won’t normally do that.

SoFi can save some borrowers considerably on their loans and offers borrowers low fixed-rate and variable interest loans as well as career coaching. Note that loans are limited to highly qualified graduates. Interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly given that SoFi is based in the Bay Area, SoFi also includes a six-month forbearance for borrowers trying to start their own companies.

Finally, CommonBond has loans specific to graduate school grads in MBA, MD, JD with low rates on 10-year loans.

Law school is an expensive endeavor. Unfortunately many will, do and did undertake it without having done enough homework to assure that decisions about which law school to attend, geography, and cost of living aligned with expectations about income, practice area, broader career, lifestyle or even simple finance. That’s why we’re excited about the Avvo scholarship. While it’s not enough to solve all law school finance problems, it’s our small acknowledgement that law school is still really expensive for even the most committed and thoughtful law students. While it’s a challenge to offer the same type of opportunity to graduates, hopefully these resources will prove helpful to them as well.


Appendix: Law schools that do not offer LRAPs

Appalachian School of Law
Ave Maria School of Law
Baylor University School of Law – Baylor University
Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law – The University of Memphis
Chapman University School of Law – Chapman University
Cleveland-Marshall College of Law – Cleveland State University
Cumberland School of Law – Samford University*
David A. Clarke School of Law – University of the District of Columbia
Dedman School of Law – Southern Methodist University
Drake University Law School – Drake University
Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law – Barry University
Florida Coastal School of Law
Florida International College of Law – Florida International University
Florida State University College of Law – Florida State University
Georgia State University College of Law – Geogia State University
Howard University School of Law – Howard University
J. Reuben Clark Law School – Brigham Young University
John Marshall Law School
John Marshall Law School – Atlanta
Levin College of Law – University of Florida
Liberty University School of Law – Liberty University
Louis D. Brandeis School of Law – University of Louisville
Mercer University Walter F. George School of Law – Mercer University**
Michigan State University College of Law – Michigan State University
New England School of Law
Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law – Campbell University***
Northern Illinois University College of Law – Northern Illinois University
Oklahoma City University School of Law – Oklahoma City University
Paul M. Hebert Law Center – Louisiana State University
Pettit College of Law – Ohio Northern University
Saint Louis University School of Law – Saint Louis University
Salmon P. Chase College of Law – Northern Kentucky University
Shepard Broad Law Center – Nova Southeastern University
Southern Illinois University School of Law – Southern Illinois University
Southern University Law Center – Southern University and A&M College
St. Mary’s University School of Law – St. Mary’s University
Stetson University College of Law – Stetson University
Syracuse University College of Law – Syracuse University
Texas Tech University School of Law – Texas Tech University
Texas Wesleyan University School of Law – Texas Wesleyan University
The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School
The University of Akron School of Law – The University of Akron
The University of Alabama School of Law – The University of Alabama
The University of Tulsa College of Law – The University of Tulsa
Thomas Goode Jones School of Law – Faulkner University
Thomas Jefferson School of Law – Faulkner University
Thomas M. Cooley Law School
Thurgood Marshall School of Law – Texas Southern University
UCLA School of Law – UCLA
Universidad de Puerto Rico Escuela de Derecho – Universidad de Puerto Rico
University at Buffalo Law School – University at Buffalo
University of Arkansas School of Law – University of Arkansas
University of Cincinnati College of Law – University of Cincinnati
University of Connecticut School of Law – University of Connecticut
University of Dayton School of Law – University of Dayton
University of Detroit Mercy School of Law – University of Detroit Mercy
University of Houston Law Center – University of Houston
University of Idaho College of Law – University of Idaho
University of Kansas School of Law – University of Kansas
University of Kentucky College of Law – University of Kentucky
University of La Verne College of Law – University of La Verne
University of Mississippi School of Law – University of Mississippi
University of Missouri School of Law – University of Missouri-Columbia
University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law – University of Missouri-Kansas City
University of Montana School of Law – University of Montana
University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Law – University of Nebraska-Lincoln
University of Oklahoma Law Center – University of Oklahoma
University of Richmond School of Law – University of Richmond
University of South Dakota School of Law – University of South Dakota
University of Tennessee College of Law – University of Tennessee
University of Toledo College of Law – University of Toledo
University of Wyoming College of Law – University of Wyoming
Washburn University School of Law – Washburn University
Wayne State University Law School – Wayne State University
Western New England College School of Law – Western New England College
Western State University College of Law
William H. Bowen School of Law – University of Arkansas at Little Rock
William S. Boyd School of Law – University of Nevada, Las Vegas
William S. Richardson School of Law – University of Hawaii at Manoa

* Offers counseling for law students in public interest programs but no program
** Program under consideration or development
*** Participates in state program