If there’s one thing you’ll almost certainly gain from law school, it’s debt. Right now, law school graduates with debt end up with an average of about $140,000 in loans. As law school prices continue to increase, that average continues to climb as well. That’s why Loan Repayment Assistance Programs should be a critical factor in deciding where you apply to law school.
Since the price of getting a legal education continues to go up (just applying to law school is expensive!), law schools have had to expand their efforts to incentivize students to apply. These incentives could come in the form of scholarships and grants. But those things have been around for a while.
More recently, most law schools have begun offering to help students repay their student loans above and beyond the government programs available to just about every law student out there.
The vast majority of these repayment assistance programs are called “Loan Repayment Assistance Programs,” or LRAPs.
What’s an LRAP?
LRAPs started becoming common five to ten years ago, and they’ve been growing in popularity. You can think of them as financial aid programs for law school graduates.
These LRAPs are so common now just about every law school in the U.S. has one. As a general rule, to qualify you need to meet the same requirements as those in the “Federal Public Services Loan Forgiveness Program.” Essentially, you would need to work full time in the public interest sector, government, or some other traditionally lower-paying legal field.
In a sense, these LRAPs are designed as another way to get students to do more public interest work.
The programs essentially work like an interest free loan. If you stay in the public interest sector for long enough, that interest free loan will be forgiven. The length of time necessary to qualify for the LRAP depends on the law school. It ranges from 1 to 3 years at most schools.
But, as a general rule, these LRAPs are a dime a dozen. This made picking the best ones a little difficult.
1. Yale Law School – COAP Program
Yale has one of the oldest LRAP programs in the U.S. It’s LRAP program is called the Career Options Assistance Program (COAP). Luckily, it’s not based strictly on applicants working in the nonprofit or public sectors. Instead, it’s based on income levels. It calculates how much the student will pay, and how much the school will pay. If you stick with it for 10 years, you’ll be able to pay off all your loans.
2. Harvard Law School – LIPP Program
Harvard’s LIPP (Low Income Protection Plan) program is very similar to Yale’s COAP program. If you took away their labels, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. This one also allows students to work in the private sector and offers full payback on loans in 10 years.
3. Northwestern Law School – IFP
Northwestern has the standard LRAP, but what puts them on the list for best LRAPs is their Interest Freedom Plan (IFP). Their IFP offers to pay all of your interest. When you put this on top of their LRAP, the savings on student loans is huge.
Other Law Schools with Loan Repayment Assistance Programs
Check out this extensive list of loan repayment assistance programs at other law schools around the country. The size of the list illustrates just how in-demand LRAPs have become. But don’t stop there. Read the details of each school’s program on their financial aid page to fully understand what you must do to qualify and how much of your loans will eventually be repaid.
And if you’re not sure whether you’re ready to take on the debt associated with law school, you can start by looking into whether a law degree is the right option for you.