Financial Aid FAQ

for law students

How can I pay for a law degree?

There are scholarships available through the Law School. Most students access federal student loans to pay for part or all of their law program.

How do I get the student loans?

You must file a FAFSA to be considered for federal student loans. The application opens October 1 each year. Be sure to list Lewis & Clark’s federal school code (003197) so we can access and download your FAFSA data.

How can I afford to pay my Expected Family Contribution/EFC (Student Aid Index/SAI in 2024-25 and beyond)?

The EFC figure from your FAFSA (SAI in 2024-25 and beyond) is used to determine your demonstrated need. We do not expect you to write a check for this amount, and the reality is that most law students will use student loans to cover all or part of their EFC (SAI in 2024-25 and beyond). Need-based loan programs are not available to law students, so your EFC (SAI in 2024-25 and beyond) does not impact the type or amount of loans we offer to you.

Can I receive federal grants?

No. The Federal Pell Grant is not available to students pursuing law degrees.

Can I receive a scholarship from the school?

At Lewis & Clark, it is the Admissions Committee at each school that determines which of the admitted applicants will be offered scholarships from the school, and in what amount. Contact the Admissions Office if you have any questions about your scholarship eligibility. These funds are always limited; submitting a strong application early is one of the best ways to secure gift aid from the school.

Is the Federal Perkins Loan available?

Unfortunately this loan program has been phased out for law students.

When does the academic year begin?

At Lewis & Clark summer is the first semester of the academic year. When a student is enrolled in all three semesters (summer, fall, and spring), their federal student loans will be split in even thirds. When a student enrolls in two semesters, their federal student loans will be split in half.

How many credits do I need to take to be eligible for financial aid?

To be eligible for federal financial aid, an applicant must be admitted into a degree-seeking program, enroll at least half time each semester in degree-applicable courses, and make satisfactory academic progress toward their degree. Half-time enrollment is also required to keep all prior federal student loans in an in-school deferment status.

For JD students, half time is defined as 2 credits in the summer and 6 credits in fall/spring.

For LLM and MSL students, half time is defined as 2 credits in the summer and 3 credits in fall/spring.

How do I decide how much to borrow?

We estimate your total Cost of Attendance (COA) for each academic year using the typical tuition for a first-year student in your degree program. We also include a monthly living allowance and other allowances for local transportation, books and supplies, and discretionary personal spending. Consider your actual expenses as well as the resources you already have available to help meet those expenses. You may not need to borrow all of the loans you have been offered.

We advise students to borrow the Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan first. Only borrow as much of the Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loan as you need.

If you will need to borrow for your living expenses, spend some time working on a spending plan to determine your monthly budget for basic expenses such as rent, utilities, and food. Consider ways to cut back on your spending so that you may not need to borrow the maximum student loans offered to you. For example, you may be able to use public transportation or the L&C shuttle to cut down on commuting costs.

How do I get the portion of my loan money I plan to use for living expenses?

When you receive your financial aid award notification from the college, you will need to decide how much to borrow and then take steps to secure your loans.

If you have completed these steps to secure your loans in a timely manner, we will arrange for the loans to post to your student account at the beginning of each semester. Your student loan funds will be applied as credits against the charges such as tuition, fees, insurance, and fines on your student account.

If your student loan funds and other payments exceed your charges, Student & Departmental Account Services will release the credit balance to you as a refund, either by electronic payment (direct deposit to your bank account) or paper check. You may use these funds for educational expenses including living expenses. Carefully budget this amount to last until your next scheduled loan disbursement.

How do I know how much I will receive for my living expenses?

Your refund check for each semester will be the excess net loan funds after tuition and other charges have been addressed:

Net Loan Disbursement minus Tuition (and other charges) = Funds refunded back to you

Because federal student loans are split evenly between semesters, if your tuition (and other charges) is higher in one semester than in others, the excess refunded to you will be smaller in that semester. It is therefore prudent to estimate your refund check amounts for each semester so you will know ahead of time if part of one refund check needs to be saved to assist you with living expenses in another semester. Refer to our Loan Disbursement and Budgeting Refunds webpage for more information.

How can I make this semester refund last until the next one?

There are many ways to budget your funds, but here is one suggestion. First, purchase your books for the semester. Then divide the remaining amount by the number of months until your next loan disbursement to determine the maximum you can spend in each month. Sit down with your spending plan, and re-work it if necessary to create a small contingency fund for expenses you did not plan on having in a typical month.

What if I need a new computer for school?

You may use your refund from financial aid to cover the cost of a computer. If you have borrowed all of your student loans and still need more to pay for a computer, you may request that we add the cost of your computer to your Cost of Attendance.

You need to purchase the computer first, so that you have a receipt or an invoice to submit to our office. We will use this receipt to document your expense, and if possible we will increase your federal student loan eligibility accordingly. The cost of purchasing a computer can be added only one time during your law program and is limited to a maximum of $2,500.

To the extent possible, we recommend covering your computer costs with your existing student loans to minimize your debt burden.

I need more than this to live on. Can I increase my student loans?

We discourage increases, as the loan we are most often permitted to increase is your most expensive loan, the Federal Direct Graduate PLUS Loan. On a case-by-case basis and with sufficient documentation there are some circumstances under which we can make increases. The following is a list of expenses that can potentially be added to your Cost of Attendance budget to increase your loan eligibility.

  • Dependent care costs for small children
    • You may submit an invoice or statement from the child care facility for a recent month showing your child’s name and age, the daily, weekly, or monthly rate, and the time frame for which care is provided (the date that care started and an explanation of how frequently care is provided). If you have an in-home provider, they can write out a signed statement with the required information.
  • Health insurance
    • If you will purchase the student health insurance plan, you may submit a statement to our office confirming that you will not waive the coverage for the current academic year. If you will waive the coverage and pay for private health insurance, you may submit documentation showing your name, the insurance company’s name, your coverage dates, and your premium.
  • One bar exam fee in your final semester
    • A receipt is required and the fee must be paid during your period of enrollment even if the exam itself will be taken after your enrollment ends.

Additionally, if your actual tuition charges are higher than we assumed at the time your financial aid offer was prepared and/or if your actual loan origination fees are higher than average, we may be able to increase these components of your budget to increase loan eligibility. Contact your financial aid counselor to see if these adjustments would apply in your case.

I have a car payment, can this be added to my student loan eligibility?

No, we cannot include car payments, credit card payments, or any other consumer debt payments when determining a student’s Cost of Attendance. We strongly encourage all prospective students to do what they can to pay off or minimize any prior debt obligations before starting law school.

I have required child support payments, can this be included to increase my student loan eligibility?

No, these payments cannot be added to the Cost of Attendance. Students in this situation may wish to consider enrolling as a part-time student so they can continue to work and have funds to cover this obligation.

Can I get money up front to pay for my move from out of state?

No, refunds from financial aid are released no earlier than the first day of classes in any given semester. You will need to cover relocation costs using your own resources.