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Paying for Law School (with Dr. Jeffrey Hanson)

In this presentation, Dr. Hanson discussed how to apply for financial aid, strategies for being a smart borrower, how to budget plan, developing plans for loan repayment, and how to manage law school debt while reaching your professional and financial goals.

Slideshow Notes [PDF]

A full text transcript of the videos is available below.

Paying for Law School I


Paying for Law School II


Paying for Law School III


Paying for Law School IV


Paying for Law School V


Paying for Law School VI


Text Transcript

Paying for law school actually starts today if it hasn't already started. The reason I say that is because I am assuming you all want to go to law school, some of you, in fact, many of you may be planning to go this coming fall, others of you are maybe planning to go in a year or two. But there are number of things that you have to do before you actually get to law school, in order to prepare financially for that new endeavor. What I want to do today is talk about how you can pay for law school; the options that are available. And the steps that I think you need to take to not only manage to get the funding you need to pay for law school, but how you should manage your finances in law school, so that you end up graduating with the least amount of student loan debt to attend the school you want to attend.

My name is Jeff Hansen, and I have about 24 years of experience in financial aid. I began my career in financial aid at Northwestern University in Chicago, where I was the director of financial aid for their Chicago campus, which was for the law school, medical school, and the dental school. I did that for seven years, then I went to work for Axis Group which was a non-profit student loan provider; primarily providing student loans to law students and other graduate professional students. And I was responsible for developing all bar education programming that focused on how students could pay for schools, manage in school, and manage to pay for the loans once they graduate. I now work independently, and one of the organizations that I work for as a contractor is Law School Admission Council, and the presentation I am going to be showing you this afternoon is the presentation I put together for them that I give at all of the regional forums ... recruiting forums ... I know there isn’t one in this area, I think the closest one is probably in Chicago, so if you have been to one of the forums you may have seen my presentation, so I hope it isn’t redundant. It is also available on the LSAC website so if you want to watch again or your friends couldn’t come, we are also videotaping this seminar so that it can be viewed here at the university. Now the slides I am going to be showing you are available in handout form on the website for the university, so you may want to check out those.

So having said all that I want to make sure that you have the opportunity during the next hour to ask any questions you have, so please don’t hesitate to stop me if you have any questions or comments. And having said that, are you ready to get started?

Okay, I need a lot of enthusiasm here; you got a free lunch, I am going to tell you how to pay for law school, presumably many of you if not all of you [inaudible] have gotten into the law school of your dreams and so this is all really good, and it is a wonderful sunny day in Oxford, Ohio. It is a little cold but it is still a sunny day, so let’s try this again, are you ready to get started? Yes. That is much better. Alright.

So, paying for law school involves I think a number of things but there are five facts that I want you to have before we get started. The first that law school is an important investment, but how big of an investment it is really going to depend upon two things. One how hard you work in law school, do you really do as well as you can academically, can you maximize the probability that you will be able to pursue the career that you want. The second is what do you do to try to ensure that you borrow the minimum amount you need to get the education at the law school you want to attend. Funding is available but the primary sources of funding are loans, loans that have to be paid back. And currently about 85 percent of all law students are borrowing some amount of money to attend law school, and the average law student is now ending up with over $100,000 of student loan debt for their legal education. The reality is you have to borrow money to go to law school, I am assuming that is probably why you are all here, that you are going to end up with a mortgage but you are not going to have a house. But the good news is that because you are going to be borrowing federal loans so it’s the most flexible form of credit you will ever going to have, that mortgage for your education, shouldn’t necessarily prevent you from being able to get a mortgage to buy a house. But it is all going to depend upon what do you do to try to ensure that number one, you do as well as you can academically, and number two, you really try to do all that you can to minimize how much you have to borrow to attend the school you want to attend.

In order to get financial aid, as I am sure you are already aware, deadlines and procedures have to be followed. All of the schools that you are interested in attending are going to require the federal form which is called the FAFSA, the free application for federal student aid. But they may have additional application requirements. They may have an institutional form you have to fill out; they may utilize a fee-based form called Need Access if they have a lot of institutional scholarship funding; and they are going to have deadlines. In fact, those deadlines are fast approaching for the coming academic year, In fact the deadlines for applying for financial aid are likely to occur before you know whether or not you have been admitted into the law school you want to attend. So you don’t wait until you’ve actually been admitted into law school to start applying for financial aid. If you end up apply for financial aid for a school where you are not admitted they are just not going to deal with that paper work. But if you miss their deadline then you are missing out on potentially some of the best sources of funding and you are risking the possibility that the money might not be available when you need it on the first day of class. Debt should be minimized to attend the school you want to attend. I am going to repeat that over and over because it is so important. And finally funding law school requires planning and preparation. That’s why I say it really begins today, actually it should have begun a long time ago. For several reasons, the first is, you need to be gathering information. I’ve already told you that all schools require the FAFSA but they may have additional application requirements for financial aid. In addition to the application for admission, they likely will have deadlines you need to know what those are, if you don’t you need to either contact the admissions staff of the law school or check out their website. It should be clearly laid out there. So, that’s one thing you need to be doing.

Secondly, you need to start living like a poor cheap, thrifty frugal law student. You may think well I am already a student at Miami University so I am already a cheap thrifty poor undergraduate student. Well, in my experience undergraduate students aren’t as cheap, thrifty frugal as law Students need to be.

Let me give you a couple of examples, I happen to be noticing around the room that at least one person has a cup from Starbucks. Law students can’t afford coffee from Starbucks. You can afford to bring you beverages from home but that is it. Alright? What did you do last weekend? Did you spend any money? If you did you could have saved that money, money that you could then use for textbooks for law school. Alright, so be mindful of the fact that when you get to law school because the majority of the money you are going to be using is money that you borrowed, and you will have to pay back. You are going to have lots of uses for that income in the future. Other than having to pay back your loans. It is always in your best interest that you try to do all that you can, and that means starting to save money as much as you can. So that if you do go out on the weekend get somebody else to pay for it. Alright, and by the way at holiday time, if it ever should be the case that your family might want to give you a gift from now until you are out of law school what is the gift you should be asking for? Money. Not money, cash, there is a difference between money and cash.

Money can come in different forms, like a gift card to Dillard’s, or Macy’s or Target. The problem with a gift card is you can only use it at those particular retail establishments. And those establishments don’t sell you anything that you need to survive and succeed in law school. To succeed in law school you need to have textbooks, you need to have food, and you need to have rest, those are things that you don’t buy at those places. Cash you can spend anywhere, but also I think you will find that if you were walking around spending only cash, you would end up spending less money. Because as soon as you pull that cash out of your purse or wallet you immediately know how much is left. So you can immediately evaluate the tradeoff if this is something that I really need or is it something I just want? And would I rather have this money for some other purpose later today, tomorrow or whatever. So again there are lots of things that you can do to ensure that you are preparing for law school.

One final thing, two final things, if you are not a senior now or about ready to enter into law school, you need to do everything that you can to do as well as you can academically here at the university because most law schools now award the free money, the scholarships on the basis of merit not on the basis of financial need. And they are going to be looking at your academic record, your LSAT score, and at the other things you have done in terms of experience, have you done anything that shows you have an interest in law and so forth. And they are going to evaluate those things and determine whether or not they are going to give you free money, money that doesn’t have to be paid back. So everything you are doing now is contributing towards the probability or the likelihood that you may get that scholarship funding. And finally there are organizations other than law school that are going to provide you with scholarship funding, but it’s not the government, it is private organizations. And so you need to start researching those organizations, finding out what other organizations might provide free money that may help you go to law school, and we are going to talk about how you can find out about those sources in a little bit. But these are things I think you should be mindful of as you are preparing for this.

So let’s quickly talk about this investment; you need to study hard and you need to borrow the minimum. Now how many of you are planning to enroll to law school this coming fall, raise your hands. How many of you are planning on going to law school a year from now? Two years from now, three years? Alright, so it’s varied, it doesn’t matter how far off in the future it is, it comes down to making the most of this investment, and you may have read a lot recently in the news in the last year about all the amount of student loan debt and is getting a law degree and other professional degrees really worth it anymore? And I can’t answer that question and I don’t think we have ever been able to answer it very well because it's all a function of what’s important to you and how well are you going to do in law school, and how much are you going to apply yourself. But there are two things that you can do to succeed in law school to make the most of this investment: You need to study hard and borrow the minimum. And the two things that will allow you to do that are you studying and sleeping, because at the market those things don’t cost you anything extra. In other words you have to study, and you are going to be paying tuition to go to the law school you want to attend. But they aren’t going to charge you more tuition because you are studying harder or spending more time in the library so at the margins it doesn’t cost anything extra. Sleeping, you are likely going to be paying someone for housing, but again at the margin they aren’t going to charge you more because you sleep more. But if you are well prepared for class and you are well rested then you are likely to do as well as you are capable of doing in law school. And it’s when you are not studying and not sleeping that you will be more likely to get into trouble. Both in terms of distracting you from doing as well as you can academically and in possibly spending money that you didn’t need to spend. So, just think about that, and that applies here as other graduates. I mean these principles are not unique to law school; the same things apply here as you are finishing up your time here.

So the investment, how much will it cost, how much can you contribute, and how can you minimize your borrowing. Well how much it costs depends on several factors: one, the tuition and fees that the school charges, they are not going to ask you how much you want to pay, they are going to tell you what you have to pay. But there are going to be grants and scholarship funding; there is going to be a certain amount of money hopefully that you get that is free money that is going to reduce the actual sticker price so that the net cost to you is going to be something less than what the school advertises as their current tuition and fees. But also recognize that you are going to have to live during the nine months of the academic year, you are going to have to cover your housing, food, and so forth. And financial aid is designed to contribute to help you meet those expenses as well as those direct costs of tuition and fees. And the total of these represents what it’s going to cost and on average for the 2011-2012 academic year, the year we have the most current data, at a public law school where you were considered an in-state resident, the average tuition and fees was a little over $22,000. If you are an out-of-state resident at the same institution it was about $12,700 more on average. And right there you see something that is important to be asking the admissions staff. I don’t care if you are starting in the fall or several years from now; if you are going to be going to law school that is a public law school but is in a state that you are not currently a resident you need to find out what is it going to take for you to get in-state residency status so at least by the second year you can pay that lower tuition rate, because that right there is going to reduce how much you have to come up with in terms of paying for the cost of this education. And if you go to a private school that is a non-issue, and as you see a private school’s tuition cost is a bit higher.

Living and book expenses, your cost of living for the nine months of the academic year is also something that the school has to come up with because that contributes to the cost and you’re eligible to get financial aid to cover that. And on average it was about $20,481 for the nine months; and if you divide that by nine it’s a little over $2,000 a month. For books, supplies, and all of your living expenses. Now how much are you spending right now as a student here on all of those things? Is it more, is it less? I don’t know. These numbers vary widely around the country. I heard someone mention they have been admitted to Boston College. Well these costs are much higher in Boston than they are here in Oxford, Ohio or anywhere in the state of Ohio. The cost of living in the Northeast is much higher and the tuition costs at all public and private schools in the Northeast is higher. The same with California, it’s the two most expensive places to go to law school, the Northeast and California, both in terms of tuition and fees and in terms of living expenses. But you want to be aware of that and that’s why schools announce or have to promote or at least calculate something called cost of attendance, which they may call your student expense budget but it is really not your budget because you are going to control how you spend your money. But basically it covers the fixed and variable costs associated with going to law school. And the law school has to calculate that because it represents maximum amount of financial aid from any source, scholarships and grants, loans, work study that you are getting and that total financial aid cannot exceed whatever they come up with for that cost of attendance. But when they calculate this it is not intended to be prescriptive, in other words it’s not how much you should be spending, it’s how much you could spend on average to attend that law school. But hopefully you will be able to come up with ways to spend less. And let’s talk about a couple of things here, first of all housing, they are likely going assume that you are sharing the cost of housing with at least one other person. In other words you have a roommate. Now when you go to law school say there is no way I am going to live with a roommate then it is likely going to cost you more for your housing than what they figured, so again you have to make some accommodations.

Transportation, how many of you have a car? Alright, a lot of students have cars and in fact when you go to law school you may find out that you need a car but unfortunately the federal government doesn’t think you do need a car to get a law degree or any other kind of education, so they don’t allow the school to include in your cost of attendance the cost of a car payment. And yet if you have the car financed someone is still going to have to be making that car payment if you want to keep the car and not destroy your credit. But again you are not going to be able to get extra financial aid for that, the transportation component is covering gas, it’s covering insurance, parking, and it’s also covering if you are in a location like Boston where they probably don’t even want you to have a car, and its covering public transit like a monthly public transit pass ... But it is not covering a car payment. And finally miscellaneous expenses, there is another type of expense that again the government doesn’t allow the school to give financial aid for and that would be if you have credit card debt and the other kinds of consumer debt. Because that’s money that was incurred or expenses incurred in the past and so if you do have credit card debt as you are approaching law school you are going to want to do everything you can to get that paid off before you start to law school because as I said you are not going to be able to get extra money to help you make those payments and yet you are going to have to continue doing so if you don’t want to damage your credit. And so this is what you are looking at in terms of cost and when it comes to these items I have shown on the white background, these are not things that the school is going to ask you how much are you spending, they are going to come up with what they think on average it costs for the academic year. I have been saying for the academic year because financial aid is only for the time you are actually going to school so if you are going to take the summer off, which most law students do, you are not going to have financial aid for that three month period of time and so you are going to have to come up with other resources in order to pay your housing and so forth.

Any questions about cost for attendance?

Alright and remember it is all about choices; how much you end up spending to get your legal education is a function of the school you choose, and the tuition and fees they charge, and then the choices you make on all of these other expenses. So once you have actually been admitted to a school now it is time to actually put pen to the paper and for those of you who are seniors if you have already been admitted to schools, and I expect that you have, and you are trying to decide where to go and so forth now it is time to actually do the math. Because hopefully you know what the tuition and fees are going to be, although they may not have announced them yet for next year you can use this year's tuition as an example. If they award their scholarships on the basis of merit which most of them do now, they probably have already told you how much your scholarship is, that gives you the new tuition and fees, then you want to factor in what do you think it is going to cost for the 9 months and if you don’t have a good idea because you haven’t lived in that area where the school is located use their cost of attendance figures for math so you can at least get an approximate amount for what the total cost is.

Then you want to look at how much are you going to be able to contribute from your own resources, how much will you have saved by the time law school begins, how much is your family going to contribute, and this is an important discussion to have with your parents and others in your life. They may tell you we are not going to give you anything because we paid for your undergraduate education, and so you are on your own for law school. And for a lot of students that is the situation; that’s fine, they have that right but at least you want to know, you want to know, is your family planning on helping you and in this case I am not talking about loaning you money I am talking about giving you a gift of funds, if they are wanting to loan you some money we will talk about whether or not that is a good idea a little bit later on when we talk about loans. Then you maybe thinking 'cause probably as an undergraduate you were working part-time here on campus or off campus, so you may be thinking you may want to continue to work part-time in law school. Well I got news for you, if you are planning to go as a full-time student during the first year of law school you will be strongly discouraged for working during that first year. Because the study of law is not like anything you have ever studied before; it is very intensive; it takes a lot of effort and it is sort of a rethinking as to how you learn the law. And if you want to make the most of this investment you want to have as few distractions as possible from doing as well as you can. So you are actually not going to be really encouraged to work during that first year; so don’t count on having part-time earnings that first year unless you plan to enroll in a part-time program, which there are some of those.

But between academic years and in the second and the third year of law school you will actually be encouraged to be working part-time in the area of the law that you have an interest, so you are getting experience, you are building up a resume, and you are creating a network of professional contacts who hopefully will help you pursue your career once you graduate. And so, of course, to the extent that you are earning money particularly in the second and third year that will help you to cover this cost. And then do you have any other resources? Again we are not looking at loans here; it’s just in essence your earnings or money you don’t have to pay back. Once you know what that is now you can actually calculate out the difference. You take those total resources that you have, subtract from it what you estimate the cost to be and this then gives you the balance, the deficit, the amount you are likely going to have to borrow, and this, if you want ... if you are comparing schools on the basis of cost ... this is the number you want to be comparing. You do not want to be comparing tuition, you do not want to be comparing scholarship amount, you want to be comparing how much am I going to have to borrow to go to school A versus school B. And let me illustrate the point. How many think getting a ... which is better, a $20,000 scholarship or a $10,000 scholarship? How many think a $20,000 scholarship is better, raise your hand. How many think that a $10,000 scholarship is better? Probably nobody. How many think I haven’t given you enough information? Well that’s the right answer. What if at the school that gave you the $20,000 scholarship, the tuition is $60,000. So the net difference is $40,000. The school that gave you the $10,000 scholarship; their tuition is $20,000. So the net tuition difference is only $10,000. So that $10,000 scholarship was a much better deal because I am left with only $10,000 of tuition to pay. That $20,000 scholarship sounded much better, but it’s still left you with $20,000 of tuition to pay, and, yes, there are now law schools that now charge $60,000 of tuition ... in the Northeast, particularly in New York City. So you again, if you are going to look at cost and maybe you are not, but if you are, this is really at the level you want to be comparing schools. When it comes to cost, what are you going to have to contribute in terms of loan funding. Does that make sense? Okay.

Any questions about this investment and how you want to think about financial aid?

Alright let’s talk about the types of funding that are available. And funding for law school is not all that different from funding for undergraduate education but there are a couple of significant differences. The first: as a law student you are going to be considered to be financially independent of your parents by the mere fact you are in law school. So, as an undergraduate student, if you’ve been receiving financial aid, your parents likely had to provide their financial information on the federal form, the FAFSA, and they were expected to be contributing towards your education. As the law student you are going to be considered by the federal government to be independent. So your parents are not going to be required to provide their financial information on that federal form, so that is one difference. Another difference is, is that there are no federal grants for law students. Whereas as an undergraduate you might have gotten a Pell grant or an SEOG or perhaps you got a grant from Ohio ... states and the federal government do not provide grant or scholarship funding for law students, the law school does and perhaps private organizations, but you are not going to get these types of funding from the government. So those are the two significant ways in which the financial aid is different. And there is one final way and that is there are no subsidized loans for law students, where as an undergraduate you probably, if you are borrowing loans as an undergraduate you probably have been borrowing some subsidized Stafford loan funding where the government is paying the interest on that loan for you while you are at school, graduate professional students are no longer eligible for the subsidized Stafford direct student loan. And that is because they have been shifting a lot of the subsidies to the back end.

So there are some differences, but the application process is not all that different. And the types of funding are not different, scholarships and grants, work-study and loans.

Scholarships and grants: Here again I have said a major difference is the sources. You notice I do not list the government, federal or state. It’s the law school, law school is the largest provider of scholarship funding to law students. But there are also private organizations that do so. What you need to know is number one, how do I apply for this scholarship, and what are the deadlines. If the school awards their scholarships on the basis of merit, then as I said, most of them do, and by the way if you are not sure what I mean by that, it is when they are deciding how much free money they are going to award to you, they are not looking at whether or not you need the money, they are looking at your GPA perhaps, your academic record, how well you did on the LSAT, kinds of experiences you have had, have you had work experience in some area of law, what, what, makes you unique and different and differentiates you from all other applicants. They are looking at your attributes not you financial circumstances. And in that case they only need your admission application, which is probably already submitted for those of you that are going next fall. But they may need additional forms so you may need to know what are the application processes and what is the deadline.

Secondly, what are the eligibility requirements? I’ve mentioned that most schools award them on the basis of merit, but there are still some schools that also look at financial need. In other words in deciding how much of the free money they are going to give you they also take into consideration, do they think you and your family need the money. And if they do there is a good chance in that instance that they are still going to want your parent’s financial information. Although you are considered to be independent for purposes of receiving federal student aid; when it comes to schools' institutional funds, the money in choosing for grants and scholarships, they can define their own set of rules because it is their money.

And most law schools look about the same financially; if we look at only their finances information, you all look about equally poor. Okay but we know you don’t all have the same financial situations. Some of you come from families that have a lot more means than others, and so the school wants to take that into consideration because they want to try to take their scarce resources and allocate them as fairly and equitably as they can. So just be aware that if they award their scholarships and grants in part on need, then they'll likely want your parents' financial information, either on the FAFSA or on the need access form or on some institutional form. And you need to make sure that is all submitted by their deadline. And so that is a question you need to be asking them; it is information you need to be gathering from them. But something else you need to know, is once you’ve gotten that scholarship, what is it going to take to get it renewed. And will it automatically be renewed or do you have to do something in order to get that funding for the subsequent years you are in law school. And what are those requirements? For example, do you have to maintain GPA or do you have to maintain a certain class rank, and if that’s true then you need to be honest with yourself, you may be in the top 10% of your class here at Miami university, but all the people you are going to be going to law school with, were also likely in their top 10-25%. And so when you get to law school only 10% of you are still going to be in the top 10%; 90% of you will be in the rest. And if there are requirements as to where you fall, you need to be honest because you could lose that scholarship in the second and third year and then you will be replacing it with loan funding. So again, make sure you do the research, read all the fine print about this because don’t just assume that if you got $20,000 the first year you are going to get $20,000 every year without regard to how well you do, without regard to how your circumstances may change.

Any questions about scholarships?

>> MARIA VITULLO: Can you comment on the "negotiability" of law school scholarships and what are your thoughts on them?

Okay, the question is what about negotiating a scholarship. In other words, let’s suppose you have gotten admitted to two different schools, and they have each given you a scholarship; one is significantly more than the other, can you go to that school that gave you the smaller scholarship and can you try to negotiate for more money? And the answer is, unless they have told you no, sure you can.

But a couple of things to keep in mind; chances are they have given you as much money as they can, based on the information you've already provided. So, certainly if your circumstances have changed, you would want to make them aware of that because maybe now you would be eligible for more money. Secondly, you also want to be mindful of what I have already mentioned. If this smaller scholarship that you got was from an institution that has a much lower tuition rate, and so, if then, they do the math and see actually you would be better off with that smaller scholarship at that other school, them then increasing it, then you are not showing them that you really understand the process. And you also want to be very polite. If you want to ask them about it, don’t go in with the idea that this is something that is owed to you; don’t go in with the idea that somehow you are entitled to get more money - that if one school offered you more, why didn’t this other one. There are lots of reasons that they may not have. Number one - the amount of money they have; number two - the criteria they use in deciding how they will allocate their funds and if they are not willing to negotiate then don’t press the issue. But again I’d also be mindful of the fact that if they have given you any indication at all that they don’t negotiate, and my guess is most schools don’t do that much because quite frankly scholarship money is used to recruit students, so they are likely to have offered you as much as they feel that they can based upon how badly they want you relative to the other students who applied. And so I think they probably have given you the very best offer they can, and if you go in with that expectation certainly unless if they’ve given you since otherwise that it would be a bad idea to try to negotiate, you can do that, but I have not heard that it’s something that typically leads to much success. Does that help, Maria?


Do you have anything you’d add to that?


>> STUDENT: I was just going to say this may be a little too specific, but how do you even say those things to the financial aid people at the school? I guess how do you verbalize it?

Well, I would say, and I’m not an admissions person, I don’t represent any specific law school. So I am speaking with not a lot of experience here. I can tell you from a financial aid perspective, I never negotiate. I say okay, did your circumstances change? If they didn’t change, you got the best deal we had to offer based upon our rules, so unless something has changed, I can’t change anything. But how students oftentime approach me was ... Well here is one thing I know you don’t want to say: Don’t go into the school and say this, "You know my dear friend so-and-so got admitted also and he or she got twice as much money as I did." Don’t try to compare yourself to somebody else, because number one, they are not going to talk to you about why they gave that other person more money. So, it’s not about that, but if it’s about comparing the offer you got from one school than another, then you want to be mindful of how badly you want to go to this school. If this is really your first choice, but you feel as though you can’t, it’s going to cause you to borrow more than you feel comfortable, and you got a better offer someplace else, then you can say, "I want you to be aware that, you know, I’m just curious to see how flexible ... is there any room for negotiation on the scholarship? ... because at this other school I got $10,000 more." Now what you want to keep in the back of your mind though, is okay, what’s the relative quality of these two institutions? Because if the school that gave you $10,000 more is a school that is perhaps less selective, is not necessarily going to allow you to, you know, advance as much as you might want, then it may be that this school that you really want to go to is going to say, "Fine. You are welcome to go there. You know, we did the best that we could." If you want to go there and pay less in terms of total tuition that is fine but the quality of school that you go to does matter both in terms of quality education but also in terms of the opportunity to have to interview with recruiters and so forth, so I think you want to be very cautious about it and simply say, "You know, I really appreciate the scholarship you gave me; I’m worried about how much I am going to have to borrow. I got this amount of scholarship from this school," and maybe leave it at that and see what they say. Does that help? Alright.

Any other questions about scholarships?

>> STUDENT: Have you noticed a change in the amount of what the schools are giving now?

The question is, have I noticed a change. I don’t really have data on that so, unfortunately, I can’t answer that question, but I have a suspicion, I have a suspicion that, number one, we have seen a real shift towards what we call the merit-based awards, and I suspect that they have gone up a little bit, particularly in an environment where enrollment is down a little bit. So in order to try to make sure they are filling their classes they may be trying to come up with some added resources to try to increase the scholarships a bit, but that’s probably coming at the cost of ... also, are they having to raise tuition? So I think that is probably a question you need to be asking the individual law schools, more so, because I don’t know if there is any good data out there to read for us to know. I don’t think it is probably less. Other questions, but again remember it’s not the scholarship you should focus on entirely; it’s that number that is going to be what you have to borrow, that’s the relevant number in terms of comparing costs, so make sure you are not just looking at the scholarship, be mindful of when you go in to have that conversation with the admission staff and you are trying to negotiate for a better deal, that you have actually sat down and figured out how much do you think you will have to borrow to attend that law school versus another one. Because then they are going to see that you really are looking at in a way you should be from a financial standpoint, you aren’t just trying to come up with a bigger scholarship number just because bigger sounds better ... because bigger isn’t always better in this case.

Alright, federal work study, - I mentioned this because if you are working, if you are on financial aid here at Miami University and you are working on campus you may be getting work study funding, so I wanted you to be aware that in law school it is much less likely that you will get work study, you probably won’t get any as a first-year student because they don’t want you to part-time, many law schools don’t even have work study funding, so it’s not even option. Secondly students who do get work study funding in the second and third year typically are either working in some sort of community based non-profit organization where the only way they can get paid is if the school can provide work study funds to that nonprofit organization to pay the salary or you are working for a professor doing some research, and that’s the only way the professor can pay you, so often times how it works out is, students who try to get jobs, certain types of jobs from the summer and subsequent academic years that are only work study eligible then will come back to financial aid and ask, can I get work study funding so I can get this job. So it’s not like it is going to be the case you are going to see work study in your financial aid package initially and maybe not at all.

And finally, loans. Loans make up the biggest source. The source of loans could be the Department of Education, private lenders, the school you are attending, or perhaps family and friends. What you need to know is that federal loans are the most flexible, and therefore those are the loans you should always use first. And this is another way in which undergraduate aid is different; As an undergraduate there are limits to how much you can borrow in federal loans so you may be left with a gap, a difference between what you need in cost of attendance and how much you can borrow in federal loans. There is no such gap in federal loans for graduate students. You can actually borrow federal loans up to the full cost of attendance minus the other financial aid you are receiving, and so you are going to want to use federal loans, you shouldn’t use private loans, federal loans are the most flexible, there are several important ways in which they are flexible. One: they currently have six different repayment options, three of which based upon how much you have to pay per month, not on the amount of your debt but on the ability to pay on your income. They also potentially come with some forgiveness particularly if you plan your career in public service working with a 501C3 nonprofit or with a government agency that you might qualify to have a portion of your federal loans forgiven after ten years through the public service forgiveness program. And even with the, if you don’t do public service, currently under some of the payment options if you are in repayment long enough then if you have any debt remaining there could be debt forgiven, and you are not going to get those kinds of benefits with any of these other lenders. Your family may be willing to forgive some of the debt but they are likely not going to be able to make the same accommodations the federal government can. Also, if you are experiencing financial hardship the federal government allows you to temporarily payment relief through either deferment or forbearance. And so, although it is still very important that you minimize how much you have to borrow to attend the school you want to attend, it is still going to be the case that you want to borrow federal loans and, in fact in some schools, if you say I want to borrow a private loan instead of a federal loan they might ask you to sign a waiver for saying you were aware that this might be of greater risk to you.

How many of you have recently heard in the news about all of the concern there is about student loan debt? probably a lot of you. It was a big issue prior to the presidential election, and over a trillion dollars is now owed on student loans in this country, which surpasses credit card debt and all other forms of credit other than home mortgages. But the people who are really struggling with their student loans typically fall in one of three categories. The first is they didn’t complete their education, they never got the degree for which they were studying, so they didn’t get to the point in which they would be earning the income or had the skills that were going to allow them to really pay this money back. Number two it’s private loan debt, which is much less flexible, and unfortunately undergraduate students do have to borrow private loans sometimes because there isn’t enough eligibility for the federal program. And the third is people who just aren’t paying any attention, they aren’t taking advantage of all of the options available in terms of managing their loans. Don’t fall into those three categories. Finish you education, borrow federal loans, and be attentive, be an informed borrower.

Federal loans you are going to be able to borrow in law school are the: federal direct student loan, which is sometimes called the Stafford loan, and the direct plus loan. Now some law schools also have personal loan funding, so if they have that funding they may also award that to you, but I’m going to focus on the direct student loan and the direct plus loan because that is going to comprise most, if not all, of what you will borrow.

The direct student loan has a fixed interest rate of about 6.8%, a fee of 1% that is deducted from the loan before the funds are dispersed. You can borrow up to a maximum $20,500 per year, or cost of attendance minus all financial aid, ... whichever is less. In your lifetime you can borrow a total of $138,500 and that does include how much you have borrowed as an undergraduate or in other graduate programs, from the direct student loan program or from the federal Stafford Loan program; they are both subsidized and unsubsidized. Now if you only have borrowed as an undergraduate, you are never going to hit this limit going to law school, and there is no credit criteria, we don’t look at your credit history to determine whether or not you are eligible for the loan. Now, if the cost of attendance is high enough, which at a lot of law schools it is, such that, even with this loan and a scholarship you might have received you still are going to need additional funds, then you borrow from the grant plus loan. This is a loan that your parents may be borrowing while you are here at Miami University because it's a loan, it was originally created for parents to help pay for their children’s undergraduate education. But in 2006 graduate professional students became eligible to borrow the loan as well, so they wouldn’t have to borrow private loans as well. The interest rate for that is slightly higher; it is fixed at 7.9%; there is a 4% fee that is deducted before the loans are dispersed to you and, in this case, the annual limit is cost of attendance established by the school for you minus all the other financial aid you are receiving including grants and scholarships, loans and work study from any source. There is no aggregate limit, so you see here that between these two that you could borrow funds up to the full cost of attendance if you needed to, if you have any other funding, hopefully you wouldn’t have to borrow that much. There is no aggregate limit, but with this loan you cannot have any adverse credit, and we will talk about what that is in just a minute. The important point to note is unlike the subsidized Stafford loan that you may be receiving here at Miami University and the Perkins loan which is also a subsidized loan; meaning the government is paying the interest for you on that loan while you are in school, during the grace period, and during any period approved of deferment. With these loans interest will start accruing as soon as the loan is dispersed to you. Now it is accruing as simple interest, it is not compounding, so you are not paying interest on the interest until 6 months after graduating when it gets capitalized or added to principal balance. And it would be nice if you were eligible for some subsidized loans, but as law students you won’t be and that’s in part because they have shifted some of the subsidies to the back end on these repayment plans in that they have provided for some loan forgiveness and some loan subsidy on the back-end if it’s needed. Now in terms of adverse credit it’s all related to: Do you make your payments on time? It’s not a function of how much debt do you have, or whether or not you have had credit before. If you’ve never had credit before, and you don’t have a credit history that’s not considered adverse credit. It’s only if you’ve had credit and you haven’t always paid on time that you are likely going to have problems with adverse credit. And these are the situations that can lead to adverse credit, and if you do have adverse credit then it doesn’t mean you can’t get the grant plus loan, but you are not going to be able to get it with your own signature. You will have to have somebody else endorsing the loan and in essence co-signing on the loan, so that you have had somebody else helping you.

Any questions about the loans?

Now again, once you’ve gotten your financial aid application submitted, the school will then calculate what your are eligible for, or they will send you a financial aid notice, that will tell you your scholarships and grants, and loans and at that point they will also give you instruction on how to apply for the loan funding that you need. And just as with the cost of attendance not being prescriptive, how much you are eligible to borrow is not prescriptive either. That’s not how much you should borrow; hopefully you can borrow less.

So how do you apply for financial aid? Well, that process is really no different than what you might have done if you are on financial aid here. First of all, you identify the requirements, what does the school require in addition to the FAFSA, do they have any other forms you have to fill out, and what are their deadlines? That information is available from their website or their admission staff. The next step is to collect the financial documents needed in order to fill out the forms. If you filed the tax reform, you will need to have that; you will need to have bank statements about your checkings and savings accounts. Then you are going to fill out the FAFSA, the Federal Application for Student Aid, which you fill out for Once you’ve done that you will get a confirmation back right away and within 48-72 hours you will also get notification if you have provided an email address that your student aid report is ready; you can go back onto, print out or download the student aid report and it will tell you what the expected family contribution is.

>> STUDENT: When filling out the FAFSA, should I list the schools that I am interested in? Should I just list Miami?

On the FAFSA, one of the questions you have to answer is what schools do you want to receive the results from the FAFSA. What schools are you applying to for which you would need financial aid? So you would list all of the schools where you’re hoping to attend, so if you are not going to be going to a school, you wouldn’t list that school, and you can list up to 10 schools. Now if you are applying to more than ten schools and you haven’t narrowed it down yet, then you’ll first apply to ten, and then I would apply to the ten that you are most likely to consider going to, and then once you get back the student aid report, you can go in and delete several of the schools and add the other ones and submit that correction.

You’ll also need to provide any other information the school requests from you as far as once the FAFSA is submitted. The FAFSA really does two things. One: It determines are you eligible for student aid, and two, what is it that the government thinks you and your family can contribute towards the cost of your education? The school will review all that information; they may need some additional documentation, then they’ll send you an award letter, and at that point, that will tell you how much scholarship and grant funding is in total, how much loan funding you are eligible to apply for. Then you will have to decide what you will need to apply for. Follow their instructions, but don’t forget to apply for grants and scholarships from other organizations. Any questions about the steps in applying for financial aid?

Alright, the FAFSA is filled out at Don’t go to FAFSA dot anything else, because anything else is where you are going to pay a fee to have someone else help you fill out the FAFSA and the FAFSA is a free application for federal student aid. So you shouldn’t have to pay anyone to help you get help. Meet the deadlines because if you miss the deadline then you are missing out on opportunities.

Any other questions about applying for financial aid?

And this is something that you are going to do each and every year, so each and every year you are going to need funding, you are going to have to apply for financial aid, remember if you are going to be going to school this fall in law school, this fall you need to make sure you get that FAFSA in right away because chances are the deadline for submitting the FAFSA for most law schools for entering students is probably sometime in early to mid February, so it’s not too early to be filling out those forms even if you haven’t yet found out if you have been admitted. Any questions about that? And what if you say "Well, I know I am going to fill out a tax return but I won’t have all the information to be able to fill it out before the deadline"? Then use estimated information. What’s most critical in filling out the FAFSA is that you do the best of your ability at providing as accurately as possible, even if you are using estimated information, so that you get the forms submitted by whatever deadlines that are imposed by the institutions you are interested in attending. Because if you miss their deadlines then you may miss out on some of the best funding. They recognize that you may be giving them estimated information initially and then they will give you an estimated award and then they will adjust as they have to once the final information is in, but don’t wait until all the information is finalized to fill out the FAFSA. Then you could be risking losing out on some of the best funding.

So why is it that you need to minimize debt? Well it's because you are spending your future income. Anytime you borrow money it is because you don’t have the funds now. I’ve never met a student who took out student loans because they thought the financial aid process to be fun; it’s very bureaucratic. 'Cause if you think about it, who in their right mind would loan you money, given you have no income, you probably have very few assets, and that we’re going to allow you to borrow well over $100,000 to get your law degree if you need to. And we don’t know what you are going to be earning, We know you will hopefully be earning something but that’s a risk. You also don’t know what your future expenses are going to be and you are going to have lots of future uses for that income. So it just makes common sense to try to borrow the minimum amount you need to attend the school you want to attend.

So, how should you decide how much you should borrow?

Well, I’ve already said it but I want to reiterate it, you should remember: How much you are eligible to borrow is not prescriptive; it’s not the amount the school thinks you should be borrowing. It’s based upon the rules and regulations, and the calculations; it's the maximum amount you are currently eligible to borrow. Then you need to calculate that in-school budget. You need to look at what is the cost going to be; what are the tuition and fees; what do you think your living expenses are going to be. Then you need to figure out what are you and your family going to be able to contribute from sources other than loans. You need to come up with what is the difference. Because it's that difference that you likely need to borrow; Then I challenge you to borrow $2,000 less. I challenge you to borrow $2,000 dollars less. Because human nature is [that] you tend to spend all that you have. If you have less, you spend less and there is a direct correlation between how much you spend in law school and how much you end up borrowing. The more you spend, the more you will have to borrow. And remember, in order to achieve in law school, the two most important things are studying and sleeping and at the margin they are not going to cost you anything.

So, how can you borrow the minimum?

Well it really involves three things: BYOB and SOS and thinking free. And BYOB is exactly what you think it is, 'bring your own beverages'. Because if you bring your own beverages to school every day, rather than buying them at the law school where it’s going to cost you anywhere from $1 on up, then you are going to save probably $5-10 a week, and $5-10 a week over the 9 months of the academic year is $2,000. That’s why I challenge you to borrow $2,000 less. Maybe that will motivate you to bring your own beverages and bring your own lunch. But BYOB also stands for 'build your own budget'. I’ve told you that the school is going to give you a sense of what the cost is because they are going to have to tell you what the cost of attendance is. But don’t fall into the trap that, that’s your budget, don’t fall into the trap that that is how much it should cost you to go to law school, because a lot of students can get by on a lot less. But it means calculating out how much you think you need to spend, if you wanted to plan your spending, which basically is what a budget is, it’s a spending plan, then you are likely spending more that you need to. 'save on spending' [SOS], how can you do that? Well we will talk about it in a minute. And 'thinking free' when it comes down to having fun. Again, I’ve already told you that essentially the two best things you can do are free at the margin. Sleeping and studying, but there are other things you are going to be able to do for free. You may not know what they are but who do you think who can tell you what are the best things to do for free legally at law school? The students who are already there, the 2- and 3-L students.So ask them what museums allow you free admission, you know. Where are the cheapest happy hours? Where can you get the cheapest clothes? Find out from them, particularly if you are going to be going to a school in a community where you have not lived before. And particularly if it is in a high-cost area, because even though it is in a high-cost area like New York, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, or Boston, there are still inexpensive ways ... San Francisco or Los Angeles also. There are inexpensive ways to be a law student in those communities.

And building your own budget really looks at figuring out, given the cost of attendance and being mindful of what that is, how much are you going to have to spend on these things? Because if you haven’t thought it through then you are likely going to spend more than you need to.

And how can you save on your spending? Well there are three things I like to focus on and we are just about finished. The rotary telephone, the brown bag, and the roller coaster. So let’s talk about the rotary telephone. My guess is that none of you have ever touched one of these, I am old enough to have had one. Alright, I am old enough to have had a party line. A party line is where you shared your phone with your neighbors. And so you would have to pick it up and see if anybody was talking and if they were you would have to put it down, because we didn’t have the phone systems; the telecommunication systems were not nearly as advanced as they are today. Well, I’m not talking about your phone; I am talking about technology. There is no question that you will need to use technology if you want to succeed in law school. The concern I have is how much are you going to spend on that technology and how much technology do you really need? In terms of a computer you will need a laptop that gives you access to the Internet and does word processing; that’s about it, because that is all you will be using it for in law school. It doesn’t have to have the best video card, it doesn’t have to have a retinal screen, it doesn’t have to have a 17-inch monitor, it doesn’t have to have a lot of memory because you’re not going to be using it for things like that ... that you would need those things for. And also whatever laptop you have now will probably be fine for the three years of law school. So you don’t need a new laptop. Also do you need multiple communication devices? Do you need a laptop AND a tablet? No, you don’t. You need one or the other, but not both. Now what about a phone? Well everyone needs a phone, but the kind of phone you need is one that allows you to make phone calls and do texts; it’s not the kind that allows you to watch videos, access the internet and all of that. Most of you probably do have smart phones. But just be aware of what technology you have; be mindful of the fact that during the time you are in law school the technology is going to change. What are we at the iPhone 8 now? 5? Sorry. But by the time you get through law school we could be on the iPhone 8. So stick with whatever one you have now unless it breaks.

You know you can’t afford to keep up with things, with technology. As long as you have sufficient technology to do what you need to do to succeed in law school, that's it. Because you will never have a lot of time to be watching videos and all those other things. So just be mindful of that, because it’s going to be a cost. The brown bag, this is really symbolic of all the other things you are going to spend money on, particularly shopping. Now all of you today got a free lunch, right? OK, now there are lunches left over. Now I don’t know what Maria’s plans are with those lunches but I can tell you that in law school you are going to get bribed with a lot of free lunches. Right, Maria? Yeah, she went to law school. Because the faculty, the administration, and the student organizations have realized that the only way to get students to come to programs like this is to bribe you with food. Alright? Because usually over the lunch hour or later in the day you might be hungry. And I’ve observed ... I’ve gone to hundreds of law schools over the last 20 years and usually there is a lot more food there than is consumed. And unless they tell you otherwise, take leftovers, because that now is a meal for later in the day. That’s a second free meal. And so that’s money you don’t have to spend. It is also time you don’t have to spend preparing a meal. Bring your lunches from home, if you can, because again that will save you money. And that’s the $5-10 dollars I was talking about.

You may make the decision that, no, your time is so important, and it is going to be important, that you rather buy a lunch at school. Recognize it is going to cost you more. But figure out ways you might be able to work around that. #1: Take advantage of the free lunches. #2: On the weekends, try to make a lot of something so you have leftovers for a couple of days during the week. Or get together with a bunch of friends and, at least a couple of nights a week, have sort of what I call a food co-op, where one person fixes dinner for everyone else ... a nutritious, but inexpensive, casserole. And then make enough so everyone gets dinner plus one more meal. Make sure you have a plastic container. It is very important that you buy Tupperware or some type of container because if you have something like that you are always going to have something that you can put free food in. You know, remember I said that success in ... law school comes from how well you do academically, whether or not you make law review, whether or not you get interviews with the employers you want, whether or not you have a job when you graduate, ... things that most law students are not finding is as true today as it use to be. Prestige, honor, and success in law school does not come from what you wear, what you eat, what you drive, or where you live. The less you spend; the more frugal, cheap, and thrifty you are, the better off you will be financially and it probably will not distract you in terms of how well you have done academically. In fact, it could have just the opposite effect. 'Cause one of the things that causes students to not do as well as they are capable of, is stress. And one of the biggest sources of stress in law school is money problems: Not having enough money to pay your rent or not having enough money for food or whatever it is, so try to make sure you are not getting into those kinds of problems.

The roller coaster: Here I am not talking about an amusement park although I do fully recognize that you are going to have to balance your time in law school ... that if you only study, only sleep, you’re going to burn out. You have to have some recreation; you have to vent; you have to have some way to vent stress. By being mindful of the fact that trying to keep up with everybody else is not the way to do it. And also recognize that over the three to six years (whenever you are in law school), styles will change in clothing and technology and in everything else. You can’t afford to keep up in law school.Keeping up is not what is going to allow you to succeed. You know, chances are you already have enough clothes to get you through law school, unless you change size significantly while you are in law school. Because I am sure you all have one nice outfit that you can use for interviewing purposes, and otherwise I can see by what you are wearing today that you understand what the dress code is. Your body has to be covered and if you are wearing clothing that has wording on it, it can’t be inflammatory or offensive. And all of you seem to be dressed appropriately here. And what you are wearing here would be perfectly fine in law school. If you came to law school every day dressed like this [signifies his own suit and tie], people would probably start to ask questions. So just be mindful of the fact that, most important is not keeping with what everybody else is able to do, because you can’t, you just can’t afford it. Remember, law school is a significant, important investment in your future. It could be the biggest investment you are ever going to make. Yes, you are going to have money that you are going to have to borrow and it is going to take some time to pay it back. But if you do all that you can to make the most of this investment by studying hard and trying to minimize how much you have to borrow then I think you will feel that it was an investment well made. Funding is available and even if you are not a US citizen or a permanent resident, funding is always available. It’s just not going to be from the federal government. But the funding is primarily in the form of loans through the federal government, and loans and scholarships through the school you are attending. Follow all deadlines and procedures; if you miss out on those you are not necessarily going to get the best money. Minimize your debt, start preparing now, get your financial house in order and don’t hesitate to ask questions.

The one thing the admission staff will encourage you to do is, if you have a question, email them, call them, go and visit the school ... whatever it takes be a well-informed consumer. Because you are making an important decision about the next phase of your life. And you want to make sure you have all you need to make the best possible decision and what you need to be doing financially. I began by saying: Paying for law school starts today, if it hasn’t already started. And that’s because you need to make sure you know what resources you are going to have available. Have that conversation with your family. Are they going to be able to help you or not? Start living like a student now - a law student, a student who has very little free time. Save as much as you can. Now, admittedly, right now if you are going to school, you are probably not able to save much, but be mindful of the fact that if you are working during the summers and that summer before you start law school, you want to make sure you are saving some money. Because you are going to need some funds for expenses that you will be required to pay before you even get access to your financial aid. You are going to have to buy your textbooks before classes begin because the first day of class there will be reading assignments due and if you haven’t done the reading you aren’t as prepared as you could have been. And you are not getting off on the right foot. Pay off your consumer debts. If you have credit card debt, try to get it paid off before you start law school because you are not going to be able to extra financial aid for that. Review your credit report. I mentioned that the grant plus loan, which is one of the loans you may need to borrow when you go to law school, is going to look at your credit report. And you want to make sure all the information is correct. And you have a right to get a free copy of your credit report through a law that was passed in 2003 that is called the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act or the FACT act. But the only place you can get it is at If you go to, or any of these other sites that promote the opportunity for you to get a free credit report, you are not really getting a free report. You are getting an complementary report because you have signed up for some fee-based service, typically a credit monitoring service., that is the website that the 3 national consumer reporting agencies, Equifax, TransUnion, Experian, have created to meet the requirements of the FACT Act, and from there you can get a truly free copy of your credit report from each of the 3 national bureaus ... once every twelve months. And you do want to make sure you do that; it’s a good financial habit to get into to make sure that, #1. the information is correct and, #2. that you haven’t become a victim of identity theft.

And get your financial records organized because you will have to provide information about your finances while filling out the FAFSA. Now I mentioned that you shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions and there are questions you should be asking now. I don’t care whether you are a senior about ready to enter into law school, a junior and it’s a year away, a sophomore, or freshman. It isn’t too early, if you are interested in going to law school, to start gathering information about this process. Yes, if you are freshman, the answers could change. If you are a senior, it may almost be too late, but again, ask the questions.

What other forms are needed besides the FAFSA if you are applying for financial aid? What are the deadlines? Will you need my parents financial information? As I mentioned, certain schools that have a lot of scholarships and grant funding, award some of their funds on the basis of financial need. And because students tend to look about the same financially, they often times are going to want your parents' financial information just for purposes of deciding how much of their institutional grant funding you can get. You want to know that, and if they do need it, how do they collect it. Do they collect it on the FAFSA? Or do they collect it on some other form? What kinds of scholarships are available? Merit or need? And how do you go about applying for them? What’s the eligibility for them? What are the renewal requirements? What’s the average loan debt for your graduates? I’m not sure if that is as important because, quite frankly, what the average is, is not necessarily what you are going to end up borrowing. What is the job placement rate and salary? I think that’s important consumer information as well, but again ultimately what job you get, what you earn, is going to be a function of how well you are doing in law school which can’t be predicted now, and what your interests are, and how they change over time. The good news is, however much you have to borrow there will be an affordable monthly payment plan, probably one of the income-defined plans, income-based repayment or the new pay-as-you-earn repayment plan. That should insure that the amount you have to pay per month won’t exceed more than about 10% of your gross monthly income, so that you will have money to cover your other expenses. And that is without regard to what, how much debt that you have.

But that still isn’t a license for borrowing more than you need. And one thing I also mentioned was, that you want to be researching how do I apply for private scholarships and grants. Again, starting that research early is a good idea, and the first place I would start is talk to the law school you are interested in attending. Find out, do they have on their website or somewhere, do they have information about organizations that have contacted them that are offering to provide scholarships and grants to law students, because that would be the best source to look for in terms of researching and pursuing those options. I will tell you that a lot of the organizations that focus on providing grants and scholarships to law students tend to focus more on second- to third-year students. Because they want to see how you did in your first year. But it doesn’t mean that scholarship and grant funding isn’t possible. You know, you can also check with This is the largest scholarship search database on the Internet. It’s focused more on undergraduates; you can actually create a profile, and then it will sort of go out and search for scholarships that kind of meet your profile. And there are other scholarships. Search websites on the Internet, if you want to just search for 'free money law school' or 'scholarships for law school'.

Again that would be a good way to search for it. The one thing I would be careful of is don’t pay anyone to help you get a scholarship, unless they guarantee to refund your money if they don’t get you a scholarship, if they don't get you a scholarship that's at least $1 greater than what you had to pay them ... and I don’t know of anybody who currently offers that kind of guarantee. But those outside scholarships can be helpful. You would be surprised; a lot of students get them who aren’t necessarily top of their class. They are looking at all different kinds of attributes.

If you come from an under-represented group, then you certainly would want to explore options there. One particular organization that you want to check out is the Council for Legal Educational Opportunity, or CLEO, and their website is, if you are an under-represented group - an African-American, Hispanic, Asian, Latino. If you are from any of these groups who are under-represented in legal education, they not only provide enrichment programs to help you get into law school, but they also offer scholarship and grant funding, and so again, check out the resources that I’ve given to Maria to post on the website because there are some other resources listed there, check out the LSAC website, the Law School Admission Council. They have a number of resources for you to check out. The Department of Education is the federal agency that is responsible for all the federal student aid programs and if you go to, which actually you can go to now. That’s where you can see all of the information about the federal student aid programs. You can go to, although you don’t really need to anymore because of that, this is where you will apply.

If you want to see how much you already owe in terms of student loans because you have been borrowing as an undergraduate, the National Student Loan Data Systems is a database that was created by the Department of Education that lists all of the federal loans and federal grants that you have ever applied for and received. is a website where you can learn more about the public service loan forgiveness program. I mentioned it earlier as a forgiveness program, whereby a portion of your federal loans can be forgiven if you pursued a career with either working for 501C3 non-profit or government agency. If that’s what you are interested in doing professionally then you want to check out more information about the student debt relief options there. again is the site where you can search for scholarships , has useful information about financial aid. And is the website where you can get your free credit report for free each year.

Any questions about that?

Alright, remember, paying for law school starts today. You aren’t getting the money yet, but the process begins now. So I hope that this information has been helpful for to you. I’ve given you my card; I’m happy to answer questions if, down the road, you have questions. You can either call or email me; it won’t cost you anything. I don’t charge students a fee, and I am happy to try and assist you if I can. I am not affiliated with any particular law school; so I can’t help you get into a particular school or get you more money at a law school. I simply can try to help you understand what the information is, the steps involved, and how to interpret that. Remember, the admissions and the financial aid staffs at the schools you are interested in attending are your best resources once you are actually at the point where you are applying for financial aid and you are making decisions about which school to attend. I hope you all have great success. I think you can, if you do all that you can to prepare financially, and if you study hard and do all that you can to minimize how much you borrow once you are in law school. And with that I will answer any other questions you have.


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