Proper Financial Management During Law School
The Office of Financial Aid is dedicated to assisting our students with being holistically successful. A major component of being a successful student and graduate is proper financial management. The Office of Financial Aid understands students who worry less about their financial situation have more time to concentrate on their academic success. Students are encouraged to take the following steps to be financially prepared for law school:
- Pay down or pay off as much consumer debt as possible– Consumer debt cannot be considered when creating a student’s Cost of Attendance. Hence, financial aid packages are not adjusted to accommodate students with high monthly payments. Entering law school with high consumer debt is a financial setback.
- Create a budget– Creating a budget helps students to have a good understanding of what resources are available to them and what obligations must be paid from these resources for a given time frame. Budgeting is a simple way to control your finances. A budget can be as simple as a spreadsheet that indicates resources and debits or students may utilize budgeting software to create a more detailed budget.
- Understand your Financial Aid Package– The Office of Financial Aid has determined the Cost of Attendance for students at the College of Law. The Cost of Attendance is a comprehensive budget that includes tuition, books, housing costs, food costs, and transportation costs. A student’s eCost of Attendance is determined by three factors: enrollment; housing status; and residency status. A student’s financial aid package cannot exceed his or her Cost of Attendance. Financial aid packages are created once students complete the FAFSA and submit all required documentation to the Office of Financial Aid. A small percentage of students receive institutional aid in the form of merit and/or need based scholarships. The vast majority of students at the College of Law fund their education via federally funded student loans. Students may borrow up to $20,500 in the Federal Stafford Loan. Students in need of additional funds may borrow the credit-based Graduate PLUS Loan. Students are able to view their financial aid packages via iRattler.
- Know your Credit History– Being aware of your credit history is important for a multitude of reasons. Students seeking the Graduate PLUS Loan as a part of their financial aid package must meet the credit criteria of the U.S. Department of Education. Also, students who intend on seeking Bar Loans for the bar preparation period must meet the credit criteria of the selected lender. Adverse credit history can impact the bar application process as well as the hiring process for certain jobs. Credit reports from all three reporting agencies can be obtained for free annually at www.annualcreditreport.com/.
- Start Financially Preparing for the Bar– Financial preparation for the Bar study period is essential. Students should consider the many expenses associated with taking the Bar, including the costs of taking a Bar preparation course through a reputable company. Many students opt to not work during the Bar study period. Hence, it is also important for students to be prepared to cover living expenses during this time. Due to the many expenses associated with taking the Bar, students should start financially preparing for the bar well before the final year of law school. Students are encouraged to open a savings account for the sole purpose of Bar expenses as soon as possible. Students should make regular and frequent deposits into their Bar savings accounts. Students with no other options for financing the Bar study period may consider borrowing a Bar study loan. Bar study loans are private educational loans. They are not a part of the federal student loan program. Bar study loans can vary greatly by the lender. Hence, students are responsible for researching Bar study loan products.
The following resources have been compiled to assist students with financial planning and money management:
HANDS ON BANKING
Hands on Banking provides information on money management via online tutorials. The valuable information provided at handsonbanking.org can be used as various stages in one’s life. Please feel free to browse the information available on this useful site: http://www.handsonbanking.org/htdocs/en/a/.
SMARTER CREDIT BY WELLS FARGO
Smarter Credit is intended to help consumers be more knowledgeable about the use of credit. The four videos provide comprehensive information regarding the impact of credit on one’s financial health. Being credit savvy is an important component of financial management. The Smarter Credit series can be viewed at: https://www.wellsfargo.com/smarter_credit/videos/index.
NATIONAL STUDENT LOAN DATA SYSTEM (NSLDS)
NSLDS is the U.S. Department of Education’s financial aid database system. NSLDS provides students with comprehensive information about their student loan history. Borrowers are encouraged to periodically review NSLDS to ensure they are aware of their student loan status. Borrowers can access NSLDS at any time by visiting: www.nslds.ed.gov/.
STUDENT LOAN REPAYMENT
Student borrowers should borrow as conservatively as possible. Student loans should be utilized to assist the student with educational expenses while in school. After leaving school, student loans must be paid in a timely manner to avoid serious consequences. Failure to repay student loans can result in an adverse credit history, wage garnishment and tax liens. Borrowers who are having difficulty making the standard repayment should contact their lender(s) and/or the Department of Education, as there are alternatives that can help a borrower avoid default.
The Department of Education provides information about student loan repayment at: