According to a recent Kaplan Test Prep survey of over 900 prospective law school students, more than a third -- 36% -- plan to fund their entire legal education all on their own, while another 22% say they’ll shoulder more than half of their tuition -- a hefty responsibility, as law school tuition and fees run up to about $40,000 a year.* Only a lucky (or hopeful) 10% say they won’t pay for any of it. The survey finds that loans are the go-to funding source for 78% of future law school students, while parents are the second most popular option -- with nearly seven in 10 students (68%) saying they will rely on a parent or guardian for at least some of their tuition. A lesser percentage -- 61% -- plan to fund their legal education with yet-to-be secured merit-based scholarships. Still more than half (54%) say they plan to work while in law school to help pay for it, while 50% say they plan to dig into their personal savings. 42% say they will rely on needs-based scholarships.
But beyond going to mom and dad, future lawyers are far less likely to tap into others in their personal networks for tuition support: only 9% say they plan to hit up another relative, while even fewer (6%) say they will seek help from their significant other.
“One thing that’s notable about our survey is that more than six in 10 respondents plan on securing merit-based aid to pay for law school, which may be wishful thinking. The reality is that even in the present market, law schools offer limited merit-based aid relative to the number of students they accept -- it's predominantly based upon outstanding GPAs and LSAT scores,” said Jeff Thomas, executive director of pre-law programs, Kaplan Test Prep. “While pursuing a legal education and career in law is a longer-term investment, we strongly encourage pre-law students to maximize their return on that investment with smart planning around how they pay for it. All too often the first move of matriculated law school students is to try to secure loans, which are often accompanied by burdensome interest rates that will challenge them for years to come as they begin their careers. Our advice is to actively seek other options first including scholarships, both needs-based and merit-based. We also advise students that as soon as they know they plan to attend law school, start putting some money aside, if possible.”
According to recent numbers from the New America Foundation’s Education Policy Program, the median debt for law school graduates in 2012 was $140,616. In 2004, that number was “only” $88,634.
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