You have big dreams of going to law school to fight for justice and help others. But law school can come at a high price — 90% of students took on student loan debt for their law degree, according to the American Bar Association (ABA) report “Student Debt: The Holistic Impact on Today’s Young Lawyer.”
With the average student debt for a J.D. coming in at $108,000, it’s no wonder law school students feel the pressure. Of course, you should strive toward getting federal financial aid like grants, scholarships, and then federal student loans to pay for your J.D. But federal limits can cap your borrowing at $20,500 per year for professional and graduate students.
You may need to turn to private loans if you need additional funding. Here are the top private law school loans to consider for your law school journey.
6 top private law school loans
Federal loans come from the U.S. Department of Education and include many benefits for student loan borrowers. The perks include deferment, forbearance, student loan forgiveness and robust income-driven repayment (IDR) options to make monthly payments more manageable.
As the name suggests, private student loans come from a private entity. Lenders can be online banks and lenders or local banks and credit unions. Each can offer different interest rates, repayment terms and fees. Start your private law school loan search by checking out these top options.
Ascent is a private lender that works to help underserved students access education loans. That means student loans are available for international and DACA students and various professions, including law.
Ascent offers fixed interest rates and variable interest rates and has no prepayment penalties. You also have a few repayment perks:
- Defer payment until nine months after school
- Flat $25 monthly payments while in school
- Interest only payments
- Terms of 7, 10, 12 and 15 years
2. College Ave
If you need to take out private student loans for law school, another option is private law school loans from College Ave. You can choose from variable rate and fixed rate loans. You can even score an auto-pay discount to lower your interest rate.
While you’re in school, you have several repayment options, including:
- Deferred payment
- Flat $25 monthly payments
- Interest only payments
- Full principal and interest payments
You can also choose from many repayment terms, letting you pay less interest with a shorter term or have a lower payment with a longer term. Repayment terms of five, eight, 10, 15 and 20 years are available.
3. Sallie Mae
If you need to cover the cost of attendance, Sallie Mae has your back. Their private law school loans cover 100% of educational expenses.
You can choose either variable APR or fixed APR loans. A strong credit score will help you get the most competitive rate, but you can lower your interest rate with their auto-debit program and make payments automatically.
Sallie Mae has several repayment options to consider:
- Deferred repayment option while in school
- Pay $25 per month while in school
- Interest-only payments
You won’t pay prepayment penalties or origination fees with Sallie Mae. You can also obtain up to 48 months of deferment while in a fellowship or clerkship. It’s possible to be approved for 12 interest only payments after the grace period.
If you use a cosigner, a cosigner release is available after making a year’s worth of on-time payments and meeting credit eligibility requirements. You can apply with Sallie Mae and find more info here.
Earnest is a unique private law school loan lender in that they allow you to skip a payment once per year. Plus, you can talk to a human if you need support. Earnest’s law school loans have no fees and have a nine-month grace period. You can get competitive variable interest rates or fixed rate loans.
Borrowers have the option to pay:
- $25 in-school payment
- Pay nothing during school
SoFi offers various financial products, including private law school loans. You won’t pay any fees and can choose from variable or fixed rate loans.
Repayment options for SoFi include:
- Interest only
- Partial payments of $25 per month
- Full payments
SoFi also offers various choices for repayment terms, allowing you more flexibility with your monthly payments. There are five, seven, 10 and 15 year repayment terms.
6. Citizens Bank
Citizens Bank was voted one of the top loan companies for private student loans in 2022, according to US News and World Report. The bank offers private law school loans with fixed rates and variable rates. There are also no fees and prepayment penalties.
Additionally, there is a high limit for law school loans capped at $225,000. To qualify for private law school loans with Citizens bank, you do need a good credit history or a cosigner.
When it comes to repayment options, you can choose from:
- Deferred payment
- Iinterest only repayment
- Immediate repayment.
Repayment terms can be five, 10 or 15 years. Find out more info and apply with Citizens Bank here.
Types of private law school loans
Before you take out private law school loans, it’s best to max out grants, scholarships and federal financial aid. You may also get approved for a graduate PLUS loan, which requires a credit check and has origination fees and higher interest rates. You might also benefit from taking out a PLUS loan.
Federal loans have amazing benefits for borrowers, such as income-driven repayment (IDR) and student loan forgiveness. Private loans, on the other hand, don’t have those same benefits. However, private law school loan lenders listed above don’t have origination fees and may offer more competitive rates.
Though many of the lenders listed above have branded law school loans specifically for law school, general graduate student loans from private lenders should also serve you well.
On top of private law school loan options designed for when you’re in school, lenders also offer bar exam loans specifically to help provide funding in preparation for the test.
Sallie Mae® Bar Study Loan
You can borrow from $1,000 to $15,000 with the Sallie Mae Bar Study Loan. Using this type of loan, the bar funds are sent to you directly. You can opt for variable or fixed rates and pay no origination fees or prepayment penalties. Learn more and apply here.
Preparing for the bar exam can be a full-time job, so it makes sense if you need some cash to help you get through. Discover offers a Bar Exam loan with variable or fixed rates. This loan gives the benefits of no fees and doesn’t penalize you if you pay your loan back early.
You can get deferred payment or in-school payments and add a cosigner to boost your approval odds. The minimum loan amount is $1,000, and the maximum loan amount is $16,000. Learn more and apply here.
Should you get private law school loans or not?
If you’re going to law school, funding is a key part of navigating that process. Opting for grants, scholarships and federal student loans from the government is a smart idea. If you can benefit from income-driven repayment or forgiveness down the line, it’s worth it to consider federal loans first.
Taking out private law school loans should be considered a last resort. Be sure to calculate the total cost over the life of the loan and review your interest rate, loan terms and available discounts.
Check how your monthly student loan payments will affect your monthly budget. You may consider adding a creditworthy cosigner to obtain a lower interest rate. Just be sure you understand the lender’s cosigner release policies.
Do your research on lenders and check out customer reviews and their social media to see what people say. Something you might overlook is customer service, but it’s important if you’re in a bind. Can you reach someone via phone or email easily?
After doing your research, check your prospective rates. Just be sure to read the terms and conditions (which can be buried at the bottom) before signing on the dotted line.
If you’re a soon-to-be law school student applying for private law school loans and want to figure out how to pay for school, you can book a pre-debt consultation to get personalized advice.
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1Sallie Mae disclosures. Lowest APRs shown for Sallie Mae Loans: The borrower or cosigner must enroll in auto debit through Sallie Mae to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction benefit. This benefit 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, if available for the loan.
2Earnest: All rates listed above represent APR range. Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. Earnest disclosures.
3Ascent disclosures. Disclosure: Ascent Student Loans are funded by Bank of Lake Mills, Member FDIC. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions. Certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. For Ascent Terms and Conditions please visit: www.AscentFunding.com/Ts&Cs. Rates are effective as of 12/01/2022 and reflect an automatic payment discount of either 0.25% (for credit-based loans) OR 1.00% (for undergraduate outcomes-based loans). Automatic Payment Discount is available if the borrower is enrolled in automatic payments from their personal checking account and the amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month. For Ascent rates and repayment examples please visit: AscentFunding.com/Rates. 1% Cash Back Graduation Reward subject to terms and conditions. Cosigned Credit-Based Loan student must meet certain minimum credit criteria. The minimum score required is subject to change and may depend on the credit score of your cosigner. Lowest APRs require interest-only payments, the shortest loan term, and a cosigner, and are only available to our most creditworthy applicants and cosigners with the highest average credit scores.