Law school is ranked as one of the top three most expensive degree programs. This is especially true in California where five institutions top the U.S. News and World Report list for most expensive public law schools. In fact, in-state tuition prices range from $44k a year up to $60k for public law schools. Though some private law schools can be more expensive than their public counterparts, that is not true for all – and attending law school in California can be affordable. Case in point: Western State College of Law is a private law school located in the heart of Orange County, Calif., and offers a more affordable tuition than public law schools.
Top Factors to Consider for Law Schools in California
While there are many factors to consider when choosing the right law school, it is important to factor in overall cost, scholarship and loan opportunities.
Cost: The total cost of law school will vary depending on where you study – both by school choice and location. Therefore, it is important to consider your tuition and living expenses when planning for law school. For instance, Western State College of Law is one of the most reasonably priced ABA schools in California.
Scholarships: Every school has different types of scholarships available. Therefore, it is important to review and understand what is offered and read the fine print. At Western State, all admitted students go to a scholarship review where they may be eligible for 5 to 95 percent of their tuition based on merit. Considerations include LSAT scores, performance in undergraduate and other opportunities, work history and other factors that might be relevant and can be included in an optional statement, such as adversity or other experiences that set them apart. Scholarships can cover tuition only and cannot be used towards books, fees and living expenses.
Although most law schools offer some level of a merit-based scholarship to incoming students, not all terms and conditions are the same. For example, some have strings attached that turn the scholarship into a loan if you transfer out, whereas others split the full scholarship across the three years and others have stipulations that you are required to take the California bar post-graduation.
In addition to an incoming student scholarship, Western State also offers continuing student scholarships. These take into consideration a student’s standing at mid-year, and those that are in good standing have the opportunity to grow their scholarship based on their academic performance.
In addition to merit-based scholarships, some law schools offer diversity scholarships. At Western State, our diversity scholarships are not supported by donors. Students who earn these scholarships receive the money directly from the law school, which can result in award amounts larger than those supported by donors.
Applying for California Law School Loans
Loans: There are multiple options available for students to apply for loans to support the cost of law school. Loans are borrowed money that must be repaid, with interest and loan fees. In addition, there are legal obligations that vary by loan, so it is important to review and understand the responsibilities of borrowing and the terms. In addition, each loan has different eligibility requirements. Some options include the Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans and Federal Direct PLUS Loans.
Other factors to consider:
- Outside scholarships: There may be outside organizations that offer scholarships for students in law school. Some scholarships are specific for students from minority backgrounds or those who have shown interest in a specific social justice issue, whereas others are available to a broad range of applicants. While these alone may not yield significant cost savings, added together or on top of other financial support they can help make school more affordable.
- Student payment plans: Some schools offer payment plans to support students. These can be set up in advance and allow students to make tuition and fee payments throughout the semester and/or while waiting for financial assistance.
- Internships: Another way to offset law school costs is to seek out paid internship opportunities. At Western State, students can apply for the Summer Honors Program which not only helps them identify and secure an internship or externship but also provides a financial investment by paying for the credits associated with the externship or offering a cash stipend for students with otherwise unpaid internship opportunities.
While the cost of school should be a consideration when choosing your law school, it should not hold you back from reaching your goals. It is important to plan early, and Western State has pulled together a checklist to help you understand the steps you’ll need to take. In addition, connect with Student Services to learn more about the financial aid opportunities available to you and how you can make law school in California affordable.