Kaplan Pre-Law Survey: How Are You Going to Pay for Law School?

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on March 13, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Law school enrollment is down, but the price of a law degree keeps going up. How do the (fewer) aspiring law students plan on paying for their degree? A recent survey by Kaplan, the test prep company, of over 900 potential law students, asked exactly that.

More than a third of potential students, 36 percent of those surveyed, plan on paying their own way, while another 22 percent will foot at least half the bill. Where's the rest of the money coming from? Mom, Dad and Uncle Sam.

Getting Ready for (More) Debt

The vast majority of prospective students, 78 percent, planned on relying on student loans. This is slightly higher than the average two-thirds of students who graduate college or university with student debt. The median debt for law school grads in 2012 was over $140,000, far above the average student debt of $28,400.

Of course, future lawyers don't need to cry themselves to sleep just yet. At least one recent study finds that, despite the debt, the net value of a law degree exceeds its cost.

Making Parents Pay, or Maybe Not

Second only to student loans are parents. Just slightly under seven in 10 potential students, 68 percent, plan on relying on a parent or guardian for at least some of their tuition. Of course, not all potential law students are planning on freeloading off their parents or federal loans. More than half plan to work while in law school in order to pay their way. Similar numbers will cash out some savings, while 42 percent anticipate need-based scholarships.

And Then There Are the Geniuses

Luckily, most future law students will be receiving academic scholarships and merit-based aid to get them by. At least, that's what they're planning on. More than 60 percent of surveyed students expect some sort of merit aid, which they have yet to secure. Jeff Thomas, executive director of Kaplan's pre-law programs, describes this as "wishful thinking." According to The New York Times, just about one in four law students receive any type of merit scholarship.

Of course, if merit scholarships, loans or parental largesse don't work out, there's always alternative ways to pay. Your organs could be worth well over $200,000, according to the journalist Scott Carney, and many people can get along fine with just one kidney.

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