New Law Grads Are Graduating With A Ton of Debt

A Starter Guide To Financial Aid

Law school is more expensive than ever before.

Tuition for a private law school in 2018 was 2.73 times more expensive than it was in 1985, even after adjusting for inflation, according to data from Law School Transparency.

For many, the only means of bringing that number down is financial aid. But financial aid for law school can be complex.

Spivey Consulting covered off on the basics of law school financial aid and what law students should know about lowering the out of pocket cost of their degree.

“The financial aid piece is a necessary aspect of law school enrollment and one that benefits you most if you consider it early on in the process, not just at the end,” Mikey Spivey writes.


It’s first important to differentiate the types of financial aid that are available to law students.

“Gift Aid” pertains to money given by a school that you are not required to repay. According to Spivey, these include:

  • Merit scholarships
  • Need-based grants
  • Outside scholarships

There are also different types of federal aid available to law students including: Federal Work-Study, Veterans Benefits, and Federal Loans.

Federal Work-Study (FWS), according to Spivey, is often offered as part of a financial aid package.

“If you qualify for FWS, you would work in an approved part-time work-study position and earn a paycheck,” Spivey writes.

Veterans Benefits are specifically geared towards veterans or dependents of a veteran. Spivey recommends applicants to check their GI Bill Tier eligibility and also take a look at Yellow Ribbon universities.

Federal loans are one of the most popular ways law students afford law school. Typically, students can qualify for Direct Unsubsidized Loans and Direct PLUS loans.


As with all financial aid, it’s critical to pay attention to deadlines.

FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is typically available October 1st.

“The FAFSA is used to help law schools even the playing field and is a form that helps financial aid administrators determine a student’s eligibility for grants, federal work-study, and federal student loans,” Spivey writes.

According to Spivey, law applicants can designate up to 10 law schools on their FAFSA.

“If you are applying to more than 10 schools, you can go back and add them once your FAFSA has been processed,” Spivey writes. “Each school has its own school code and you can usually find these on the law school’s financial aid website or at”

Sources: Spivey Consulting, Law School Transparency


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