Paying for law school

Try these tips to help find the money you need for law school.

How much does law school cost?

With average tuition prices increasing by $1,398 per year, it may be overwhelming to think about how you’ll be able to cover the rising cost of law school.footnote 1

When figuring out how you’ll pay for law school fees, make sure you have all the associated costs lined up so you’re not surprised by unexpected fees or stuck in a difficult financial situation.

Although prices can vary depending on the institution type and location of the school, the average total cost of law school is $220,335, with an average yearly cost of $48,828.footnote 1

Keep in mind, beyond the tuition price of school programs there are other costs to consider, such as: application fees, books, living expenses, and bar exams.footnote 1

When it comes to covering law school costs there are a lot of tools to help you access paying for higher education without getting you into more debt than you can handle.

Make a plan to pay for law school

You can use a 1-2-3 approach to help figure out how to finance your law degree.

1. Use “free” money first. Supplement your savings by applying for money you don’t need to pay back, like law scholarships, grants, and assistantship positions.

2. Apply for federal student aid. Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) to see if you qualify for government loans and grants as well as state and school aid, if they are available.

3. Consider a responsible private student loan for law school. If you qualify, a private law school loan can help you pay any remaining tuition, fees, or living expenses.

Compare the Sallie Mae® Law School Loan to the Federal Direct Grad PLUS Loan. It can be a good alternative and, if you’re highly qualified, you may receive a lower interest rate.footnote 2

Learn about the Sallie Mae® Law School Loan

1. Use "free" money first

Personal savings

If you are thinking about using your savings to help pay for law school, there are a few things you should consider. You’ll want to make sure you can pay your monthly bills and still have some money set aside for any unplanned events. Create a budget to understand what your expenses are and how much savings you can use for your education. Talk to a financial aid advisor if you have any questions.

Law school scholarships and grants
Some law schools may have scholarships or grants their students can apply for. Grants are often need-based while scholarships can be need-based or merit-based. Look at the websites of the schools you’re applying to and talk to their financial aid offices to find out more.

Other scholarships
Some legal professional associations, law firms, and for-profit companies have scholarships and grants for law students. Here are a few examples of the organizations that have scholarship programs or resources:

  • American Bar Association: The ABA Legal Opportunity Scholarship awards $15,000 over three years to law students from diverse backgrounds.footnote 3
  • Federal Circuit Bar Association: Scholarships range from $5,000 – $10,000. The association classifies their law scholarships into two types: judicial and association.footnote 4
  • NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF): Each year, the LDF offers the Earl Warren Scholarship to first- and second-year law students. The scholarship provides $15,000 for up to three years as well as the chance for an internship, externship, or research project, along with an invitation to the Civil Rights Training Institute. Students must remain in good standing for all years they have the scholarship.footnote 5
  • Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA): The Lloyd M. Johnson, Jr. Scholarship program awards scholarships worth $10,000 to incoming first-year law students.footnote 6

You can search thousands of scholarships for law students using our free Scholarship Search tool. You can also reach out directly to the organizations for more information. Ask school department heads for recommendations on which scholarships, awards, or grants may be best for you.

Loan forgiveness programs
Depending on what job you take after law school, you may be eligible for a loan forgiveness program. Although you don’t see the immediate benefits of the program while you’re in school, these programs can make repaying your loans more manageable. Here are a few of the most well-known loan forgiveness programs:

  • Federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF): This program offers loan forgiveness to law school graduates who pursue a career in public service. Only federal loans can be forgiven under this program, and you must have made 120 qualifying monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan while working full-time for a qualifying employer.footnote 7
  • State Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LARPS): This is another program for law school graduates entering a public service career. Funding for these assistance programs varies by state. Currently, 24 states participate in the program.footnote 8
  • Be sure to visit each program’s website for details on qualifications and how you can apply.

2. Apply for federal student aid

To see if you qualify for any federal loans and grants, you’ll fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

The FAFSA can give you access to the following types of federal, state, and school aid:

  • Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans: You can borrow a set amount of these loans (sometimes called “Stafford Loans”). These loans are unsubsidized, meaning you’re responsible for paying all the interest on them.
  • Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loan: If you need additional help covering expenses, you may be able to take out PLUS Loans. These loans are credit-based and typically have a higher interest rate than Federal Direct Loans.
  • School-based aid: Your school may distribute additional aid based on the FAFSA. You could qualify for loans, scholarships, or a Federal Work-Study position, which allows you to work part-time on campus to earn money to cover your living expenses.
  • State aid: Like school-based aid, state financial help varies. When you file your FAFSA, you can find out what your state offers. Also look on your state’s website for other opportunities.

3. Consider a responsible private student loan for law school

After you’ve explored "free" money and financial aid, you can consider a private student loan for law school to help pay for any gaps in your school tuition, fees, or living expenses.

Private law school loans are available through a bank or credit union. These loans are credit-based. The better your credit, the better your chance of getting a loan. Private student loans are available with fixed or variable interest rates.

For example, the Sallie Mae® Law School Loan is available with a fixed interest or variable interest rate. It also gives you the option to make payments either while you’re in school or defer until after you leave school.footnote 9 As with federal student loans, you’ll have to pay back the money you borrowed, plus interest. Sallie Mae also offers the Bar Study Loan for expenses associated with fees and living costs as you study for the bar exam.

Deferring undergraduate student loans
If you have private or federal student loans from your undergraduate degree, you can consider deferring them while you’re in law school. Contact your loan servicer to find out what options you have. Be aware that although you may not have to make monthly payments on these loans while you’re studying, the loans will likely still accrue interest.

How to borrow responsibly
Borrowing is often a necessary part of getting the education you need to start your legal career. But it’s important to borrow responsibly so you can pay back your loans on time after you earn your degree. Limit your borrowing to the amount you’ll need for the cost of tuition and related expenses. Evaluate what your anticipated monthly loan payments might be versus how much you expect to earn as a legal professional. You can research your potential salary through professional associations and the U.S. Department of Labor, which lists the median pay for many fields.

Related topics

footnote 1. This information was gathered on 1/31/2024 from

footnote 2. Explore federal loans and compare to make sure you understand the terms and features. Law School loans that have variable rates can go up over the life of the loan. Federal student loans are required by law to provide a range of flexible repayment options, including, but not limited to, income-based repayment and income-contingent repayment plans, and loan forgiveness and deferment benefits, which other student loans are not required to provide. Federal loans generally have origination fees, but are available to students regardless of income.

footnote 3. This information was gathered on 02/20/24 from

footnote 4. This information was gathered on 02/20/24 from

footnote 5. This information was gathered on 02/20/24 from

footnote 6. This information was gathered on 02/20/24 from

footnote 7. This information was gathered on 02/20/24 from

footnote 8. This information was gathered on 02/20/24 from

footnote 9. Advertised APRs for Law School Loan assume a $10,000 loan with a 3-year in-school period. Interest rates for variable rate loans may increase or decrease over the life of the loan based on changes to the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of one percent.  Advertised variable rates are the starting range of rates and may vary outside of that range over the life of the loan. Interest is charged starting when funds are sent to the school. With the Fixed and Deferred Repayment Options, the interest rate is higher than with the Interest Repayment Option and Unpaid Interest is added to the loan’s Current Principal at the end of the grace/separation period. To receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate discount, the borrower or cosigner must enroll in auto debit through Sallie Mae. The discount applies only during active repayment for as long as the Current Amount Due or Designated Amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month. It may be suspended during forbearance or deferment.

footnote Sallie Mae does not provide, and these materials are not meant to convey, financial, tax, or legal advice. Consult your own financial advisor, tax advisor, or attorney about your specific circumstances.

footnote External links and third party references are provided for informational purposes only. Sallie Mae cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information provided by any third parties and assumes no responsibility for any errors or omissions contained therein. Any copyrights, trademarks and/or service marks used in these materials are the property of their respective owners.

footnote FAFSA® is a registered service mark of U.S. Department of Education, Federal Student Aid.