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Best law school loans in February 2024

Feb 14, 2024
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Bankrate’s guide to the best law school loans weigh each lender’s interest rates, features and terms to help you make the best choice for funding your education. You’ll also find information on deciding whether a private or federal loan is right for you, comparing lenders and preparing to apply.

The costs of law school, including tuition, fees, housing and books, are difficult for most people to pay without additional financing. The average law school graduate owes $130,000 in student loan debts by graduation. When borrowing that much money, finding the right loan for your needs and your financial future is essential.

Law school students can borrow money for school through federal or private student loans. For the 2023-2024 school year, graduate student borrowers pay rates of 7.05 percent on direct unsubsidized federal loans or 8.05 percent for PLUS federal loans. Private lender rates range from about 4 percent to 16 percent. The rates private lenders offer you depend on factors like your income and credit score.

 

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Filters
Fixed APR from

4.11- 15.44%

Loan amount

$1k- No Max

Fixed APR from

4.13- 15.46%

Loan amount

$2k- No Max

Fixed APR from

4.39- 14.66%

Loan amount

$1k- $100K

Fixed APR from

4.48- 13.29%

Loan amount

$1k- $350K

Fixed APR from

4.50- 15.49%

Loan amount

$1k- No Max

Fixed APR from

4.56- 8.34%

Loan amount

$1k- No Max

Fixed APR from

5.35- 7.95%

Loan amount

$2k- No Max

Fixed APR from

8.42- 13.01%

Loan amount

$1k- $100K

Lender conversion and compensation impacts how, where and in what order products appear in the above table

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

When shopping for a law school loan, compare APRs across multiple lenders to make sure you’re getting a competitive interest rate. Look for lenders that keep fees to a minimum and offer repayment terms that fit your needs. While we do our best to ensure accuracy, the lenders’ websites will have the most up-to-date information. The law school lenders listed here are selected based on factors such as APR, loan amounts, fees and credit requirements. See our methodology section below for more information on how we chose and evaluate lenders.

The best law school student loans in February 2024

LENDER APR FOR LAW STUDENT LOANS** LOAN TERMS MIN. LOAN AMOUNT MAX. LOAN AMOUNT BEST FOR
Federal grad PLUS loan Fixed: 8.05% Standard repayment term is 10 years Not specified 100% cost of attendance Overall loans
SoFi Fixed: 4.99%-14.05%; Variable: 5.99%-14.05% 5-15 years $1,000 100% cost of attendance Overall private loans
Earnest Fixed: 4.42%-14.30%; Variable: 5.89%-15.97% 5-15 years $1,000 100% cost of attendance Flexible repayment options
Sallie Mae Fixed: 4.99%-14.47%; Variable: 6.87%-16.46% 10-15 years $1,000 100% total cost of attendance Part-time students
College Ave Fixed: 4.11%-14.47%; Variable: 5.59%-14.47% 5 to 20 years $1,000 100% total cost of attendance Competitive rates
Citizens Bank Fixed: 4.99%-11.26%; Variable: 6.84%-12.34% 5 to 15 years $1,000 $225,000 Multiyear funding
Ascent Fixed: 5.13%-14.56%; Variable: 7.20%-15.21% 5 to 20 years $2,001 $400,000 Loans with a long grace period

*See offer details in rate table above
**The rates in this table are for international student loans. The information on lenders below reflect the overall student loan rate range offered by each lender.
†The minimum amount is $2,001 except for the state of Massachusetts. Minimum loan amount for borrowers with a Massachusetts permanent address is $6,001.

Best overall private lender

Min. credit score:
640
Fixed APR From:
4.44% –14.70%
Loan amount:
$1,000– $500,000
Term lengths:
5 to 20 years
Min. annual income:
Not disclosed
Overview: SoFi offers competitive rates (both fixed and variable), no fees and myriad repayment options. The entire loan process happens online.
Why SoFi is the best overall private lender: With no fees required, low rates and a plethora of member benefits, SoFi makes it easy for borrowers to get and repay law school loans.

Best for flexible repayment options

Min. credit score:
650
Fixed APR From:
4.42% –14.30%
Loan amount:
$1,000– $500,000
Term lengths:
5 to 20 years
Min. annual income:
$35,000
Overview: Earnest is a private student loan lender offering flexible repayment options, no late fees and competitive rates.
Why Earnest is best for flexible repayment options: Earnest offers several ways to customize your repayment. Borrowers may postpone a payment once every 12 months and add that payment to the end of their repayment period, and they can choose to change their payment date or make payments biweekly.

Best for competitive rates

Min. credit score:
Not disclosed
Fixed APR From:
4.11% –15.44%
Loan amount:
$1,000– $300,000
Term lengths:
5 to 15 years
Min. annual income:
Not disclosed
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.
Why College Ave is best for competitive rates: College Ave offers low rates, plus an autopay discount, so it's a good choice for borrowers with good or excellent credit.

Best for multiyear funding

Min. credit score:
640
Fixed APR From:
4.48% –13.29%
Loan amount:
$1,000– $350,000
Term lengths:
5 to 15 years
Min. annual income:
Not disclosed
Overview: Citizens Bank offers student loans through a completely online application process. Existing Citizens Bank customers may be rewarded with a .25 percent rate discount.
Why Citizens Bank is best for multiyear funding: Borrowers who choose Citizens Bank may apply for its multiyear loan program, where borrowers are approved for several years of funding and do not have to go through a hard credit check each year.

Best for loans with a long grace period

Min. credit score:
Not disclosed
Fixed APR From:
4.13% –15.46%
Loan amount:
$2,001– $400,000
Term lengths:
5 to 20 years
Min. annual income:
Not disclosed
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.
Why Ascent is best for a long grace period: Ascent offers a longer in-school period and a longer grace period than most other lenders. For law school loans, borrowers may defer payments for 36 months of enrollment, and once enrollment ends they may defer payments for another nine months.

What is a law school student loan?

Law school loans are a type of graduate student loan designed for students pursuing a Juris Doctor degree. Students can take out both federal and private loans to finance their schooling, although they should be aware of the varying APRs and terms between lenders before applying. 

Both federal and private law school loans can be used to finance tuition costs or related academic expenses. Plus, most private lenders allow students to apply with a co-signer to score better terms or increase their approval odds.

 

How do law school loans work?

When you accept a law school loan, your lender will send the funds to your school. Typically, you can defer principal payments until graduation (or after the agreed-upon grace period). Interest will accrue during this period and will be added to your loan balance at the end of the grace period. Alternatively, most lenders allow you to make interest-only or small principal payments while in school.

Once you have graduated and reached the end of your grace period, you'll begin making payments on both the principal and interest.

Private law school loans let you choose between fixed and 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 interest you pay could change monthly or quarterly based on market trends.

Types of law school loans

There are two broad categories of law school loans: federal loans and private loans. 

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 Loans and grad PLUS loans.

Direct Unsubsidized Loans Grad PLUS Loans
Fixed rate (2023-2024) 7.05% 8.05%
Fee 1.057% 4.228%
Aggregate maximum limit $138,500 Full cost of attendance
Credit requirements None No adverse credit history

If you don't have a good credit history, you may still qualify for a grad PLUS loan by adding an endorser — essentially, a co-signer.

Direct Unsubsidized Loans start accruing interest once money is disbursed to your school. You may choose not to pay this interest while in school and during your six-month grace period. These loans may be a good option if you have a short credit history or poor credit because all borrowers receive the same interest rate, regardless of financial history.

To qualify for federal student loans, you’ll have to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Applications for the 2023-24 FAFSA opened on October 1, 2022, and close on June 30, 2024. However, some institutions and states have individual deadlines, so be aware of every deadline so you don't leave financial aid on the table.

U.S. citizens and eligible noncitizens can apply for federal student aid – including need-based financial aid – through the FAFSA. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients aren't eligible for federal need-based aid or loans. However, they should still fill out the FAFSA to be considered for state and institutional aid.

All graduate students are considered independent, so you won't need to provide any of your parents' details when filling out the form, but you will need to provide your own financial and personal details. Be prepared to lay out your portfolio, including your annual income and total assets. If you experience a major financial change – like total and permanent disability – after you've submitted, you may be able to correct your FAFSA later on.

Private student loans

Private student 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.

Additionally, these lenders let you choose between fixed and variable interest rates.

Borrowers should maximize their federal aid potential before turning to private loans, as many lenders don't offer the same forgiveness and hardship benefits that federal lenders offer. However, some may provide payment relief options or alternative repayment plans, so always consider the lender's benefits and protections when comparing loans.

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:

Which law school student loan is right for you

If you’ve exhausted free aid opportunities and still need money for school, the right choice depends on the rate you qualify for and any extra perks you want to pursue.

Federal student loans

Federal student loans are the best place to start for many borrowers. You may find them appealing if: 

  • You have bad credit. All borrowers pay the same interest rate for each type of federal student loan, regardless of credit score. You don’t need to pass a credit check to receive Direct Unsubsidized Loans. While you do need a credit check for grad PLUS loans, there is no minimum score required for approval.
  • You want to pursue loan forgiveness. Only federal Direct Loans can be forgiven through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. Additionally, if you work for the Department of Justice, you may qualify for the Department of Justice Attorney Student Loan Repayment Program.
  • You want varied repayment options. Federal student loans’ standard repayment term is 10 years. With an income-driven repayment plan, you can pay a percentage of your income for 20 to 25 years; any remaining debt after that term is forgiven.

Private student loans

Generally, it’s wise to use federal loans before applying for private student loans, due to the protections and forgiveness options federal student loans offer. But private student loans might be a good choice for you if:

  • You have excellent credit. The lowest private student loan rates on offer are lower than federal student loan rates. You may qualify for these rates if you have an excellent credit score, solid income and a low debt-to-income ratio. Additionally, many private lenders do not charge fees.
  • You want variable rates: Private lenders offer you the choice between fixed rates — which remain the same throughout your repayment term — and variable rates, which change to reflect market forces. However, variable rates may not be the best option as recent Federal Reserve rate hikes are likely to result in rising interest rates.
  • You do not qualify for federal student loans. If you’re in the U.S. attending school on a nonimmigrant student or Exchange Visitor Visa, you are ineligible for federal loans. However, some private U.S. lenders — such as College Ave — allow international students to apply for loans if they meet eligibility requirements.

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 almost always have minimum credit score requirements, and the best rates go to borrowers with high credit scores. If you get approved for a bad credit student loan, your rate may be in the double digits. In other words, you’ll be paying more in interest over your loan’s life. If you can improve your credit score, you may eventually be able to refinance to a lower rate.

If you're having trouble getting approved or 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. The lender considers the co-signer's credit profile, which can improve your chances of getting approved for a student loan with better rates and terms.

FAQs about law school loans

Methodology

To find the best law school loan lenders, we first searched for lenders that were reputable and widely available to borrowers across the United States. We then narrowed down the field by ensuring that lenders had low starting interest rates. To select our final rankings, we looked at repayment terms, number of fees and loan amount ranges to determine which lenders would make the loan process easy and affordable. We particularly liked lenders that offer special perks, like cash back rewards or multiyear funding options.