Remember the Basics
Here's a refresher on finding the most common types of financial assistance available to law school students:
- 1. First, look for grants and scholarships before applying for loans, and consult financial aid professionals on all funding matters.
- 2. Second, fully explore the federal loans available to you-such as Stafford, Perkins, and Graduate PLUS loans-before looking to private lenders. Federal loans typically offer better terms and repayment options.
- 3. Third, consider private loans only after federal loans fall short in covering your expenses
The Real Cost of the LLM Degree
There is more to the cost of the LLM degree than just tuition and fees, book and supply costs, and living expenses.
For starters, don't forget as you pursue an LLM that interest will continue to accrue (and possibly capitalize) on any unsubsidized loans you took out for law school, assuming you didn't pay accrued interest while earning your first law degree.
It's also important to consider opportunity costs-the income you'll be giving up while enrolled in an LLM program. Although obtaining an LLM degree can significantly increase your future income potential, you will still be likely giving up at least a year's worth of income while you get your advanced degree.
Alternative Sources of Funding
Other ways to avoid going in to debt while earning your LLM include taking advantage of:
- Employer-sponsored tuition reimbursement programs
- Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAPs), which allow loans to be repaid in full or in part in exchange for service in a particular area following graduation
- Loan forgiveness programs for borrowers who pursue certain areas of public service work
Student Loans and Credit
You may have heard that it is a lot easier to damage your credit (and FICO score) while you are in school than it is to improve it. But based on information from FICO's Web site, the majority of your FICO score comes from your repayment history. One of the challenges students often face with credit is that their credit files are "thin" and their repayment history minimal. While you are still in school, be sure to keep your loans in good standing (for example, in an "in-school deferment" when possible) so that you show no delinquencies on your account and your credit stays in good shape.
The full version of this article originally appeared in Hobsons'LLM Guide.
Paul Garrard has more than 25 years of experience working with graduate and professional students and their schools in higher education financing matters.