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I Get By With a Little Help from My Friends (in the Financial Aid Office)

Unless you have been living in a cave for the past few years (feel free to write your personal statement about the experience if you have), you have probably read at least one of the several hundred articles, op-eds, and blog posts written about the implosion of the legal job market and law school "scam."  In case you have managed to miss the weekly proclamations of lawmagedon in The New York Times, the gist of most of these pieces is that choosing to go to law school is a financial decision akin to using your checking account and credit card to secure that princely inheritance waiting for you at a bank in Nigeria.

Those of us in the Admissions Office do not believe the end is nigh for the prospects of lawyers entering the job market, particularly our graduates; we wouldn't be in this line of work if we did.  However, the realities of the current legal job market have served to underscore the magnitude of the financial impact of attending law school and highlighted the importance of being a savvy financial aid consumer.  After three years and $100,000+ in non-dischargeable debt, you do not want to find yourself in a position where you regret your decision to attend law school.

Key to helping our prospective students, current students, and alumni understand and cope with the financial realities of attending law school is the YLS Financial Aid Office.  When the Office isn't busy handing out piles of free money through our need-based scholarships, summer public interest funding, and loan repayment assistance, their time is spent addressing the distinct needs and questions of these three groups.

Prospective Students

Is this scholarship offer from another school as good as it appears to be?  Should I be afraid to take on all of this debt?  How do I apply for loans?  How much is this $3,000 laptop going to cost me in the end?

With the proliferation of full-tuition merit scholarships and "loan-free" financial aid policies at top undergraduate schools, many prospective YLS students are encountering educational loans for the first time.  Our Financial Aid Office educates prospective students on the general loan process and loan terminology.  The Office also helps prospective students understand their YLS aid offers and gives them guidance and advice on how to compare their YLS offers to offers they may have at other schools.  If a prospective student decides to come to YLS, our Financial Aid Office walks students through the financial aid process step-by-step, helps them understand the different types of loan products available, and advises them on how much money they should be borrowing to meet their needs in the coming academic year.

Current Students

I'm getting bombarded with offers from lenders, what are my best options?  Can you help me budget?  Can I borrow more money?  How do I repay my loans if I decided to clerk?

Given YLS's relatively small size, the Financial Aid Office has the ability to work with current students on a very individualized basis to develop both short-term (living on a budget while in school) and long-term (multiyear loan repayment) plans.  Resources offered to current students include assistance with applying for outside scholarships, advice on budgeting and making the most of loan and scholarship dollars, and help calculating what impact summer employment and other life events may have on their financial aid packages.

This academic year, the Financial Aid Office introduced a popular Financial Literacy Lunch Series.  The Series includes interactive workshops on a variety of financial management topics presented by experts in the field.  Programs targeted at first- and second-year students focus on effective budgeting, strategies to minimize loan borrowing, and the benefits of maintaining good credit.  Workshops for third-year students assist with their transition from YLS with sessions focused on choosing the right federal loan repayment plan specific to their needs, effective participation in our own loan repayment program, COAP, and an overview of "real world" finances (retirement, insurance, investment options).

Third-year students can also take advantage of comprehensive exit counseling sessions offered by the Financial Aid Office.  In these sessions students' entire loan portfolios are reviewed,  their projected loan payments under the various federal repayment plans are compared, and their estimated COAP support is graphed over a ten-year eligibility period.   Third-year students can also take advantage of a complimentary consultation with a financial planner to discuss their broader fiscal strategies beyond their loan repayment. 


Can I re-enroll in COAP?  I'm thinking about changing careers; what does this mean for my loans?  How can I save for retirement, have children, and still repay my loans?  Does this new federal repayment program make sense for me?

Our students' access to the resources of the Financial Aid Office doesn't end at their commencement ceremonies.  Because of YLS's commitment to supporting our graduates' career paths through COAP, the Office naturally keeps in close contact with our alumni through COAP's ten-year eligibility period.  Additionally, graduates are encouraged take advantage of the advice and support offered by our Financial Aid Office to discuss the effects of changes in life and financial circumstances on their loans.

Law school still makes sense for a lot people and our students have weathered the legal employment hellscape especially well.  You just need to understand fully the financial responsibility you're taking on and equip yourself with the tools to navigate the financial realities of being a law student and lawyer.  You can survive the lawpocalypse with a little help from your friends in the YLS Financial Aid Office.


Oliver said:

A lot of my friends are finding the job market to be particularly unnerving and bleak without contacts already placed in corporations and law firms.  I think it's great that the admissions office is doing its best to help people out in their law career.  Cheers.



# March 3, 2013 3:53 PM
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