Best of

Law School Loans for 2019

Ryan LaneJune 11, 2019

At NerdWallet, we strive to help you make financial decisions with confidence. To do this, many or all of the products featured here are from our partners. However, this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

If free financial aid won’t cover all your law school costs, opt for federal student loans before private loans.

Our pick for

All borrowers as a first option

Programs like income-driven repayment and Public Service Loan Forgiveness make federal student loans best for those who plan to go into public interest law or government — or who want to keep their options open.

Federal Grad PLUS Loan

Federal Grad PLUS Loan

Fixed APR

6.08-6.08%

Min. Credit Score

None

Pros

  • More flexible repayment options for struggling borrowers than other lenders.
  • All borrowers attending a Title IV school qualify.

Cons

  • Higher interest rates compared with other lenders.
  • You pay an origination fee.
  • You can’t see if you’ll qualify without a hard credit check.
Read full review

Qualifications

  • Grad PLUS loan borrowers must not have adverse credit history.
  • Borrowers with adverse credit history can still receive a Grad PLUS loan by enlisting a co-signer without adverse credit history or documenting extenuating circumstances for their credit history.
  • Loan amounts: Total cost of attendance minus other financial aid.

Available Term Lengths

  • 10 to 25 years once repayment begins, depending on the repayment plan.

Our picks for

Private law school loans

These lenders offer loans with features designed to meet law students’ specific needs, like longer grace periods and deferments during clerkships or fellowships.

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan
Check Rate

on Sallie Mae's website

Fixed APR

4.74-11.35%

Variable APR

3.37-10.75%

Min. Credit Score

Does not disclose

Pros

  • One of the few lenders to provide loans to part-time students.
  • Borrowers can access online tutoring and free credit score tracking.
  • Non-U.S. citizens, including DACA students, can apply with a co-signer.

Cons

  • You can't see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.
  • Information not available on minimum qualifying credit scores or income.
Read full review

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: 748.
  • Minimum income: Did not disclose.
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 up to 100% of the school-certified expenses.

Available Term Lengths

  • 5 to 15 years

Disclaimer: Lowest rates shown include the auto debit discount: Fixed 4.74% - 11.35% APR and Variable 3.37% - 10.75% APR. Interest rates for Fixed and Deferred Repayment Options are higher than interest rates for the Interest Repayment Option. You're charged interest starting at disbursement, while in school, during your separation/grace period, and until the loan is paid in full. The repayment option that is selected will apply during the in-school and separation/grace periods. When you enter principal and interest repayment, Unpaid Interest will be added to your loan's Current Principal. Variable rates may increase over the life of the loan. Advertised variable rates reflect the starting range of rates and may vary outside of that range over the life of the loan. Advertised APRs are valid as of 08/02/2019 and assume a $10,000 loan to a freshman with no other Sallie Mae loans. Additional information regarding the auto debit discount: Borrower or cosigner must enroll in auto debit through Sallie Mae. The rate reduction benefit applies only during active repayment for as long as the Current Amount Due or Designated Amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month. This benefit may be suspended during periods of forbearance or deferment, if available for the loan Loan amounts: $1000 up to 100% of the school certified expenses: Loan amount cannot exceed the cost of attendance less financial aid received as certified by the school. Sallie Mae reserves the right to approve a lower loan amount than the school-certified amount. Repayment term of 5 to 15 years: This repayment example is based on a typical Smart Option Student Loan made to a freshman borrower who chooses a fixed rate and the Fixed Repayment Option for a $10,000 loan, with two disbursements, and a 8.44% fixed APR. It works out to 51 payments of $25.00, 119 payments of $156.04 and one payment of $118.97, for a Total Loan Cost of $19,962.73.

College Ave Private Student Loan
Check Rate

on College Ave's website

Fixed APR

4.72-12.94%

Variable APR

3.96-11.98%

Min. Credit Score

Mid-600s

Pros

  • You can see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.
  • International students can qualify with a co-signer.
  • More flexible repayment options than other lenders.

Cons

  • No formal forbearance options.
Read full review

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: Mid-700s.
  • Minimum income: $35,000 per year.
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 to $80,000.

Available Term Lengths

  • 5, 8, 10 or 15 years

Disclaimer: College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply. As certified by your school and less any other financial aid you might receive. Minimum $1,000. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Flat Repayment Option with an 8-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 7.78% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 54 monthly payments of $25 while in school, followed by 96 monthly payments of $176.21 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $18,266.38. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. Information advertised valid as of 7/1/2019. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.

Citizens One Private Student Loan
Check Rate

on Citizens Bank's website

Fixed APR

4.40-12.19%

Variable APR

3.29-11.62%

Min. Credit Score

Does not disclose

Pros

  • International students can qualify with a co-signer.
  • Loyalty discount for existing Citizens Bank customers.

Cons

  • You must be pursuing a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • You can’t see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.
Read full review

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: Does not disclose.
  • Minimum income: Did not disclose.
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 to $100,000

Available Term Lengths

  • 5, 10 or 15 years

Disclaimer: Variable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate ("LIBOR") published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of August 1, 2019, the one-month LIBOR rate is 2.26%. Variable interest rates range from 3.29%-11.62% (3.29%-11.47% APR)  and will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Fixed interest rates range from 4.40%-12.19% (4.40% - 12.04% APR) based on applicable terms, level of degree earned and presence of a co-signer. Lowest rates shown requires application with a co-signer, are for eligible applicants, require a 5-year repayment term, borrower making scheduled payments while in school and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change. Please note: Due to federal regulations, Citizens One is required to provide every potential borrower with disclosure information before they apply for a private student loan. The borrower will be presented with an Application Disclosure and an Approval Disclosure within the application process before they accept the terms and conditions of the loan.

Our pick for

Graduate program loans

Law students can pay for school with graduate student loans. While these don’t tailor features to law students, they may offer better rates or overall features than loans that do.

Earnest Private Student Loan
Check Rate

on Earnest's website

Fixed APR

4.69-12.78%

Variable APR

3.35-11.44%

Min. Credit Score

650

Pros

  • Option to skip one payment every 12 months.
  • No late fees.
  • Nine-month grace period is longer than most lenders offer.

Cons

  • You can’t see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.
  • Loans aren't available in Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Texas and Virginia.
Read full review

Qualifications

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: Did not disclose.
  • Minimum income: $35,000.
  • Loan amounts: $1,000 up to your total cost of attendance.

Available Term Lengths

  • 5, 7, 10, 12 or 15 years

Summary of Law School Loans for 2019

LenderFixed APRVariable APRMin. Credit ScoreLearn More
Federal Grad PLUS Loan

Federal Grad PLUS Loan

6.08-6.08%

N/A

None

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on Sallie Mae's website

4.74-11.35%

3.37-10.75%

Does not disclose

Check Rate

on Sallie Mae's website

College Ave Private Student Loan

College Ave Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on College Ave's website

4.72-12.94%

3.96-11.98%

Mid-600s

Check Rate

on College Ave's website

Citizens One Private Student Loan

Citizens One Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on Citizens Bank's website

4.40-12.19%

3.29-11.62%

Does not disclose

Check Rate

on Citizens Bank's website

Earnest Private Student Loan

Earnest Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on Earnest's website

4.69-12.78%

3.35-11.44%

650

Check Rate

on Earnest's website

LenderFixed APRVariable APRMin. Credit ScoreLearn More
Federal Grad PLUS Loan

Federal Grad PLUS Loan

6.08-6.08%

N/A

None

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan

Sallie Mae Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on Sallie Mae's website

4.74-11.35%

3.37-10.75%

Does not disclose

Check Rate

on Sallie Mae's website

College Ave Private Student Loan

College Ave Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on College Ave's website

4.72-12.94%

3.96-11.98%

Mid-600s

Check Rate

on College Ave's website

Citizens One Private Student Loan

Citizens One Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on Citizens Bank's website

4.40-12.19%

3.29-11.62%

Does not disclose

Check Rate

on Citizens Bank's website

Earnest Private Student Loan

Earnest Private Student Loan

Check Rate

on Earnest's website

4.69-12.78%

3.35-11.44%

650

Check Rate

on Earnest's website

Types of law school loans

Law students may be eligible for two types of federal student loans: direct unsubsidized loans and grad PLUS loans. Direct unsubsidized loans have a lower interest rate and fee, so take out those first. But there’s a limit to the amount of direct unsubsidized loans you can take, so you might need some grad PLUS loans too.

Some private lenders offer branded “law school loans” or loans for bar exam expenses. These have features that cater to law students’ specific needs — like deferring payments during a clerkship or fellowship. However, you can also use private graduate student loans for law school. Compare rates and features to find the least expensive option if you opt for private loans.

» MORE: How to pay for law school

Which law school loan is right for you?

If you’ve exhausted free aid like scholarships and are torn about which law school loan to borrow, take out federal loans.

Law students finish school owing an average of $145,500 in student debt, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Federal loans offer more repayment options to handle that debt load, such as income-driven repayment plans, Public Service Loan Forgiveness and loan repayment assistance programs, known as LRAPs.

» MORE: Law school loan forgiveness and repayment programs

Private student loans may make sense — and save you money — if you don’t think you’ll need or qualify for those options.

For example, repaying $145,500 in grad PLUS loans with a 7.08% interest rate would cost $203,446 over 10 years. Opting for private loans with an interest rate of 5% would drop that amount to $185,191. The PLUS loan would also come with a 4.236% origination fee; most private lenders don’t charge an origination fee.

Monthly payments on that much debt would be roughly $1,500 for private loans and $1,700 for PLUS loans. Either amount might be unaffordable if you choose to be a legal services attorney, public defender or prosecutor, whose median starting salaries range from $48,000 to $58,000, according to the National Association for Law Placement. But with federal loans, income-driven payments at that salary would be $244, and Public Service Loan Forgiveness could erase the balance after 10 years.

Projected starting salaries are higher if you plan to practice in the private sector, with a median of $155,000 according to NALP. Wages rise even more if you join a Big Law firm. Still, opting for federal loans can protect you if you don’t land the job or salary you expect. And if you do, you can always refinance law school loans after graduating to recoup some savings.

Last updated on June 11, 2019

To recap our selections...

NerdWallet's Law School Loans for 2019