Best law school loans in October 2021

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INCOME SHARE AGREEMENT

4.3

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR From

3.50%

with AutoPay
Variable APR From

1.13%

with AutoPay
Term10-15yr

4.6

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR From

2.99%

with AutoPay
Variable APR From

0.99%

with AutoPay
Term5-20yr

4.4

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR From

2.94%

with AutoPay
Variable APR From

0.99%

with AutoPay
Term5-15yr

4.6

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR From

2.99%

with AutoPay
Variable APR From

0.99%

with AutoPay
Term5-15yr

4.5

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR From

3.23%

Variable APR From

1.03%

Term5-15yr

4.1

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR From

3.20%

Variable APR From

1.20%

Term5-15yr
Fixed APR From

2.91%

with AutoPay
Variable APR From

0.99%

with AutoPay
Term5-20yr

4.0

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR From

4.64%

Variable APR From

2.91%

Term5-15yr

4.1

Bankrate Score
Fixed APR From

4.25%

with AutoPay
Variable APR From

1.25%

with AutoPay
Term5-20yr

Income Share Agreement

Income shares range start as low as 1% of income over a 5 year period.

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The Bankrate guide to choosing the best student loan for law school

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When shopping for a law school loan, compare APRs across multiple lenders to make sure you’re getting a competitive interest rate. Also look for lenders that keep fees to a minimum and offer repayment terms that fit your needs. Loan details presented here are current as of Aug. 31, 2021. Check the lenders’ websites for more current information. The law school lenders listed here are selected based on factors such as APR, loan amounts, fees, credit requirements and more. For more information on how we chose lenders, see our methodology section above.

Best law school student loans in October 2021

Lender
Current APR Range
Loan Term
Min. Loan Amount
Max. Loan Amount
Best For
Federal grad PLUS loan
Fixed: 6.28%
Standard term is 10 years
Not specified
100% cost of attendance
Overall loans
SoFi
Fixed: 4.08% to 10.86% (with autopay) Variable: 1.04% to 11.28% (with autopay)
5 to 15 years
$5,000
100% cost of attendance
Overall private loans
Earnest
Fixed: Starting at 2.99% (with autopay)* Variable: Starting at 0.99% (with autopay)*
Not specified
$1,000
100% cost of attendance
Flexible repayment options
Sallie Mae
Fixed: 4.75% to 11.98% (with autopay) Variable: 2.12% to 11.48% (with autopay)
15 years
$1,000
100% cost of attendance
Part-time students
College Ave
Fixed: 4.49% to 11.46% (with autopay) Variable: 1.99% to 10.45% (with autopay)
5 to 20 years
$1,000
$150,000
Competitive rates
Citizens Bank
Fixed: 4.24% to 9.02% (with autopay) Variable: 1.89% to 8.5% (with autopay)
5 to 15 years
$1,000
$225,000
Multiyear funding
Ascent
Fixed: 3.02% to 12.95% (with autopay) Variable: 1.51% to 11.08% (with autopay)
7 to 15 years
$2,001
$200,000
Loans with a long grace period
Discover
See rates at Discover.com
20 years
$1,000
Up to 100% of school-certified college costs. Aggregate loan limits apply.
Offering rewards

What is a law school loan?

Law school loans are a type of graduate student loan, usually offering a higher loan amount than undergraduate loans to account for the higher costs. There are federal and private loan options, both offering varying APRs and terms. Loan proceeds are to be used for tuition or related law school expenses, and many loans can be taken out with or without a co-signer.

How do law school loans work?

When you accept a law school loan, your lender will send the funds to your school and you'll begin payments. Typically you have the option to defer principal payments until after graduation (or after the agreed-upon grace period); in that case, you can choose to make interest-only payments each month. If you do not make interest-only payments during the in-school and grace periods, the interest will be added to the loan balance, increasing the amount of debt. Once you have graduated and you reach the end of your grace period, you'll begin making payments on both the principal and interest.

Law school loans may offer you the choice of fixed or variable interest rates. If you choose a fixed rate, your interest rate (and monthly payment) will be the same throughout your repayment period. If you choose a variable rate, the amount of interest you pay could change month to month based on market trends.

Details: Best student loans for law school in October

Federal grad PLUS loan: Best overall

Overview: Federal Direct grad PLUS loans offer loans up to the entire cost of attendance (minus any aid you receive) and a variety of generous repayment options.

Perks: Federal loans offer unique benefits like loan forbearance, income-driven repayment plans and forgiveness when you meet certain criteria. You may also be able to qualify for a loan without a co-signer if you meet certain requirements, so it's a viable option if you have a poor credit history.

What to watch out for: Grad PLUS loans have loan fees (currently at 4.228 percent), and borrowers need to complete entrance counseling before the loan is disbursed. The interest rate may also be higher than that of some private lenders.

Lender Federal grad PLUS loan
Minimum Credit Score Not specified
APR Range Fixed: 6.28%
Loan amount Up to 100% cost of attendance
Loan terms Standard term is 10 years
Fees 4.228% loan fee

SoFi: Best overall private law school loan lender

Overview: SoFi offers competitive rates (both fixed and variable), no fees and myriad repayment options. The entire loan process happens online.

Perks: Borrowers can get a rate estimate without affecting their credit score and get an approval within minutes. SoFi also offers unique benefits, such as a 0.25 percent rate discount for those who make automatic payments and free access to financial advisors, career coaching and more.

What to watch out for: While SoFi doesn't disclose a minimum credit score requirement for its law school loans, its high credit score requirement for personal loans may indicate that the lender is best suited for borrowers with good to excellent credit.

Lender SoFi
Minimum Credit Score Not specified
APR Range Fixed: 4.08% to 10.86% (with autopay) Variable: 1.04% to 11.28% (with autopay)
Loan amount $5,000 to 100% cost of attendance
Loan terms 5 to 15 years
Fees None

Earnest: Best for flexible repayment options

Overview: Earnest is a private student loan lender offering flexible repayment options, no late fees and competitive rates.

Perks: Borrowers can skip one payment every 12 months*, change their repayment due date and enjoy a grace period of nine months. There is also a 0.25 percent rate discount for autopay customers*.

What to watch out for: Earnest borrowers must have a minimum credit score of 650 and at least three years of credit history. Additionally, if you're using a co-signer, the co-signer must have a minimum income of $35,000 per year.

Lender Earnest
Minimum Credit Score 650
APR Range Fixed: Starting at 2.99% (with autopay)* Variable: Starting at 0.99% (with autopay)*
Loan amount $1,000 to 100% of cost of attendance
Loan terms Not specified
Fees Returned payment fee: $8; Florida stamp tax: 0.35%

Sallie Mae: Best for part-time students

Overview: Sallie Mae is one of the more well-known private student loan lenders that offers flexible repayment terms and minimal fees.

Perks: Sallie Mae doesn't just cater to full-time students; it also offers loans for part-time students. Borrowers benefit from no origination fees, a nine-month grace period, a 0.25 percent autopay discount and a co-signer release if you meet certain credit requirements and make 12 consecutive on-time payments.

What to watch out for: You won’t be able to prequalify for a loan, meaning you’ll be subjected to a hard inquiry and your credit score could be affected.

Lender Sallie Mae
Minimum Credit Score Not specified
APR Range Fixed: 4.75% to 11.98% (with autopay) Variable: 2.12% to 11.48% (with autopay)
Loan amount $1,000 to 100% of cost of attendance
Loan terms 15 years
Fees Late fee: 5% or $25; Returned check fee: Up to $20

College Ave: Best for competitive rates

Overview: College Ave offers loans for U.S. residents and international students. You can check your rate without impacting your credit, and a co-signer release is available to qualifying borrowers.

Perks: The lender offers four repayment options, and its rates are competitive with other big-name lenders like SoFi. There’s also a 0.25 percent autopay rate discount.

What to watch out for: College Ave does not disclose its minimum credit score requirements, so you must complete an application to learn if you qualify. Additionally, law school loans have a cap of $150,000, while other lenders do not set limits.

Lender College Ave
Minimum Credit Score Not specified
APR Range Fixed: 4.49% to 11.46% (with autopay) Variable: 1.99% to 10.45% (with autopay)
Loan amount $1,000 to $150,000
Loan terms 5 to 20 years
Fees Late fee

Citizens Bank: Best for multiyear funding

Overview: Citizens Bank offers student loans through a completely online application process. Existing Citizens Bank customers may be rewarded with a rate discount.

Perks: Borrowers are eligible for a 0.25 percent autopay discount, and customers who have a qualifying Citizens Bank account can get an additional 0.25 percent rate reduction. Citizens Bank also offers a unique multiyear approval option, which allows you to secure funding for additional years in school without needing to go through a hard credit check for each application.

What to watch out for: While the limit is high, Citizens Bank does specify a maximum lifetime loan limit of $225,000.

Lender Citizens Bank
Minimum Credit Score Not specified
APR Range Fixed: 4.24% to 9.02% (with autopay) Variable: 1.89% to 8.5% (with autopay)
Loan amount $1,000 to $225,000
Loan terms 5 to 15 years
Fees None

Ascent: Best for loans with a long grace period

Overview: Ascent is an online lender that offers competitive rates and puts financial literacy at the forefront. Its law school loans come with a variety of repayment terms and plenty of discount options. Check your personalized rates from Ascent today.

Perks: Ascent's law school loans offer students more flexibility than other lenders do; along with an extended in-school period of 36 months, it offers a grace period of nine months after graduation. Many other lenders limit this grace period to six months. Plus, borrowers can receive an up to 1 percent cash back graduation reward and an up to 1 percent rate reduction for automatic qualifying loan payments.

What to watch out for: Loan limits are lower than those of other online lenders: Credit-based loans have a $200,000 maximum per academic year.

Lender Ascent
Minimum Credit Score Not specified
APR Range Fixed: 3.02% to 12.95% (with autopay) Variable: 1.51% to 11.08% (with autopay)
Loan amount $2,001 to $200,000 (aggregate)
Loan terms 7 to 15 years
Fees None

Discover: Best for offering rewards

Overview: Discover is known for its credit cards, banking products and personal loans, but it also offers student loans. The lender has generous discounts for setting up autopay, making interest-only payments and receiving good grades in school.

Perks: Borrowers can receive a one-time cash reward for receiving at least a 3.0 GPA (or equivalent).

What to watch out for: Discover doesn’t allow a co-signer release, and there's no prequalification option, meaning you'll have to go through a hard credit check to find out if you qualify.

Lender Discover
Minimum Credit Score Not specified
APR Range See rates at DiscoverStudentLoans.com/Rates
Loan amount $1,000 to 100% of school-certified college costs. Aggregate loan limits apply.
Loan terms 20 years
Fees None

Best ways to pay for law school

There are many ways to finance law school — some of which you have to pay back and some of which are "free" money. Here are a few of the best ways to pay for law school:

  • Law school loan: With high loan amounts and flexible repayment periods, law school loans allow you to pay off your degree over time, rather than upfront.
  • Federal and state grants: The federal government, many states and some organizations have their own opportunities for grants that do not need to be repaid.
  • Scholarships: Like grants, scholarships do not need to be repaid. Some scholarships are based on financial need, while others are merit-based.
  • Personal savings: Some students may also find it most convenient to pay for law school with their own savings. If you can, keep any funds designated for law school in a high-yield savings account before you need to withdraw them.

Which type of law school loan is best for you?

There are two broad categories of law school loans: federal loans and private loans. The right choice for you depends on the rate you qualify for and any extra perks you want to pursue.

Federal student loans

Federal student loans are a popular option, since they come with a fixed interest rate and benefits like loan forgiveness programs. Federal student loans include Direct Unsubsidized and grad PLUS loans. Unsubsidized loans tend to have lower fees and rates, although loan limits aren’t as high as those of grad PLUS loans. These loans may be a good option for you if you don't have much credit history or if you have poor credit, since your credit score won't factor into the interest rate you're offered.

Private student loans

Private student loan lenders typically offer high loan limits, and many companies brand their products specifically as law school loans. With these loans, you may be able to defer payments while you’re going through clerkship or fellowship in addition to while you're in school. However, private student loans lack some of the benefits of federal loans, such as loan forgiveness programs and forbearance options.

Also consider that private student loans usually offer fixed- and variable-rate APRs. Fixed-rate loans will have the same monthly payment throughout the lifetime of the loan, whereas variable ones will fluctuate depending on the index rate. If you’re confident that you can pay off your loan quickly, a variable-rate loan could work.

How to apply for a law school loan 

You'll apply for a law school loan in the same way that you'll apply for any other student loan. If you're applying for a federal loan to help with the cost of law school, you'll apply through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

If you're applying for a private student loan, you can typically do so on the lender's website. Lenders often provide prequalification tools, so you'll get an idea as to whether or not you meet the approval requirements before you submit a full application.

When applying for a law school loan, you'll need to provide details about your school, personal information like your Social Security number, proof of income, proof of employment and any relevant details about your co-signer, if applicable.

How to get a law school student loan with bad credit

Getting a law school student loan if you have bad credit is possible, but your options could be limited. Federal student loans are the best place to start. Direct Unsubsidized Loans don't do a credit check, and while grad PLUS loans do, there isn't a minimum credit score threshold you need to meet.

On the other hand, private lenders tend to offer the best rates to borrowers who have good credit, which means that if you do get approved, your rates may be higher. In other words, you’ll be paying more in interest throughout the life of your loan.

If you're having trouble getting approved or if you're seeing high rates, it may be worthwhile to use a co-signer. Co-signers are common for private student loans, since many students don't have enough credit history for a lender to determine their eligibility. On a co-signed loan, the lender takes into account the co-signer's credit profile, which can improve your chances of getting approved for a student loan with better rates and terms.

Frequently asked questions

How much can you borrow with a law school loan?

How much you can borrow with a law school loan depends on which lender you choose. The federal government, for instance, sets a limit of $20,500 per year and $138,500 total for its Direct Unsubsidized Loans for graduate students. Federal grad PLUS loans, on the other hand, let you borrow up to the full cost of education each year with no aggregate limit.

Many private lenders also let you borrow up to the full cost of education, although you may also be subject to aggregate limits, whether advertised or not.

Do law school loans cover living expenses?

The "total cost of attendance" covered by law school loans includes tuition, fees, food, transportation, books and housing.

Can law school loans be forgiven?

While law school loans taken out from private lenders typically cannot be forgiven, there are a few ways you could find forgiveness for your federal loans. One method is an income-driven repayment plan, which bases your monthly payment on your income and forgives any remaining balance after 20 to 25 years of payments.

You may also qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness if you find a job as a public service lawyer, and some schools or states could offer loan repayment assistance programs, such as the John R. Justice Program.

Will Biden forgive student loans?

President Biden suggested during his campaign that he is open to the idea of forgiving $10,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower. If this were to happen, law school loans taken out through the federal government would likely be eligible for forgiveness. However, Biden currently appears to be focusing on other areas, such as revising existing student loan forgiveness programs and working toward more affordable education.

What is the average student loan debt for a lawyer?

The National Center for Education Statistics pins the average law school debt at $145,500. However, the amount of debt you leave with depends entirely on the cost of your school, the length of your program and how much financial aid you receive.

Is going into debt for law school worth it?

Whether law school is worth the cost is a highly personal question — it largely depends on your finances, the amount of debt you have to take out and your job prospects after you graduate. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the average lawyer salary as $148,910, while legal occupations as a whole have an average salary of $112,320. While salaries vary by location and specific occupation, those prospects could offset the higher costs of earning your degree.