Financial Aid at UW Law School
There are two sources of funding for financial assistance for students at the UW Law School. First, the Office of Student Financial Aid (OSFA) administers federal Stafford loans, federal work-study funds, and federal GradPLUS loans for the entire University. Second, the Law School itself awards private merit-based and need-based scholarships based on a variety of criteria. Thus, to complete the financial aid application process, students need to apply for financial aid from both the OSFA and the Law School.
As a law student, you are considered to be an independent student, and neither the OSFA nor the Law School requires parent financial data for financial aid applications. Generally, you will be eligible for more aid than you may have had access to as an undergraduate. Even if you have been working full time prior to enrolling in law school, we encourage you to apply for federal financial aid through OSFA since most students will resign their full-time positions before starting law school and will experience drastic changes to their financial situations when the school year begins. Most applicants will be eligible for at least unsubsidized Stafford loans, regardless of their prior income history.
How to Apply for Federal Aid
Stafford Loans and Work-Study Funds
- For all federal loans, you need a four-digit federal PIN number, which is available from the U.S. Department of Education PIN Web Site.
- Next, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). We strongly encourage you to complete this form online. It can be found at FAFSA. You must specify the University of Wisconsin as one of the schools that has access to your data. Our school code is 003895.
- You must submit any requested tax documents to the OSFA. The Student Federal Tax Return Cover Sheet can be downloaded on the OSFA website.
- Once your application is finalized, your Financial Aid Notification will be sent to the email you have provided. To view the awards as a new student, you must log on to your MY INFO, and as a continuing student you must log on to your MY UW.
- At this point, you will be able to see what you have been awarded in subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loans, as well as federal work-study aid. You must accept your loans on your MY UW or MY INFO.
- The maximum amount that you can borrow per academic year in Stafford loans is $20,500. For subsidized loans, the federal government pays the interest on the loans while you are in school. For unsubsidized loans, which also include Grad PLUS loans, interest will start to accrue immediately. Interest on all Stafford loans is fixed at 6.8%.
- Work-study awards can range from $0 to $2,400 per year. If you are awarded work-study funding and you are not planning to work, you can convert the work-study award into loan money.
Federal Direct Grad PLUS Loans
You may decide that you need more financial aid than you have been awarded in Stafford loans and work-study funds. If this is the case, you may want to apply for Federal Direct Grad PLUS loans. Instructions for applying for Grad PLUS loans are listed below.
- Follow all the steps above for applying for Stafford loans.
- Complete the Federal Direct Grad PLUS Loan Request Form and submit it to the OSFA. This form will authorize the U.S. Department of Education to conduct a credit check on you.
- Complete the Federal Direct PLUS Loan Application/Master Promissory Note on the Department of Education’s website.
- You will receive a letter via the U.S. Postal Service regarding the Department of Education’s credit decision within 7-10 days. Denied borrowers will receive a co-signer/endorser addendum application. It is your choice to pursue this option. For questions and answers about the credit decision call the Department of Education at 1-800-557-7394.
- The maximum amount you can borrow in Grad PLUS loans is the Cost of Attendance minus the amount you are awarded in Stafford loans and work-study funding. Starting in July 2010, interest on Grad PLUS loans will be fixed at 7.9%. Grad PLUS loans disbursed prior to July 2010 have a fixed interest rate of 8.5%.
Disbursement of Loans and Refund Checks
Federal loans are disbursed into a student’s account 5 days prior to the start of classes each semester. After the tuition is paid, any credit balance due back to the borrower is mailed to the address listed on the School Request Form. If a borrower’s intention is to pay for housing with his or her federal loans, it is the responsibility of the borrower to cash the refund check and pay any housing bill or rental property.
How to Apply for Law School Private Need and Merit-Based Scholarships
Continuing students should submit an updated scholarship request by the summer prior to the coming academic year. The reapplication should take the form of a formal, written letter submitted to the Law School Financial Aid Office, Room 4314. Scholarship awards are made on a rolling basis.
If you are awarded any scholarships from the Law School, the amount you are awarded will be subtracted from your maximum loan eligibility.
Calculating Your Personal Expense Budget
To determine how much financial aid you will need, you should compare your personal nine-month school year budget to the estimated OSFA Law School Cost of Attendance Budget. For example, in 2012-2013 the OSFA estimates that the average law student living in Madison will need $2,090 per month. This figure is obtained by adding the estimated costs of room and board, books and supplies, computer, travel, and miscellaneous and dividing by 9 (for the 9-month school year). Each student then needs to determine whether his or her expenses total more or less than this budgeted figure. If your expenses are less than $2,090 per month, you may not need to take all the loans that you are eligible for. If your expenses are more than $2,090 per month, you may need to see the OSFA and complete a Budget Adjustment Form. Remember: You are ultimately responsible for repaying your student loans. To make this more manageable upon graduation, it is critical to budget appropriately and stay under the $2,090 figure.
Please note: The federal financial aid guidelines do not allow schools to incorporate expenses such as car payments or commercial credit card debt into your estimated budget of expenses. If you will carry such expenses into law school, you will need to make other arrangements to have those costs covered, or reduce your expenses in another area to compensate.
Ensuring Sufficient Financial Aid
In some instances, financial aid awards are not sufficient to cover tuition/fees and living expenses. This generally occurs in three situations: (1) you worked full time during the calendar year preceding the year you enroll in law school; (2) you experience unexpected expenses during the academic year; or (3) you have expenses that exceed the usual full-time graduate student budget.
You worked full time during the calendar year proceeding the year you enroll in law school. If you worked full time before coming to law school, the FAFSA data used to complete your federal financial aid award is based on the preceding calendar year’s income. Generally, when a student returns to law school, he or she resigns a full-time position. Therefore, you may have significantly different financial circumstances when you get to school than at the time you completed your FAFSA. If you are in this situation, you should complete the “Special Circumstances” section on the Student Federal Tax Return Cover Sheet or submit a written letter to the OSFA indicating that you have a special circumstance that may alter your financial need for the coming term. This letter may be emailed, faxed, or dropped off in person at the OSFA. The OSFA is located at 333 East Campus Mall #9701, Madison, WI 53715. The email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and the fax number is 608-262-9068. If you need additional assistance, we encourage you to schedule an appointment with an adviser at the OSFA by calling 608-262-3060.
You experience unexpected expenses during the calendar year. In some instances, OSFA can expand your federal financial aid eligibility because of unexpected expenses such as medical bills or dental bills. Please consult with the OSFA to determine whether you should complete a Budget Adjustment Form.
You have expenses that exceed the usual full-time graduate student budget. In some instances, extra expenses, such as parenting costs, can be incorporated into your federal financial aid eligibility. Please consult with the OSFA to determine whether you should complete a Budget Adjustment Form.
What to do if you are experiencing financial difficulties. If you find that you are having significant difficulty meeting your expenses with your financial aid funds, you should first consult the OSFA to see if your situation warrants completion of a Budget Adjustment Form. In some cases, OSFA will be able to expand your federal loan eligibility. If you have completed the budget adjustment process and you are still unable to meet your expenses, you should consult with the Law School Financial Aid Office in Room 4314 of the Law Building, or by calling 608-262-5914.
Reapplication Process for Continuing Students
As a continuing student, you must reapply for federal financial aid for the coming fall during the spring semester of each year. To reapply, you must follow the steps outlined above. You can complete your FAFSA as soon after January 1 as you complete your federal tax return. Students intending to study abroad with another law school’s program should consult the Law School Financial Aid Office for a list of additional information you will need to submit with your financial aid application.
Over 90% of law students have to take out student
loans. Because student loan debt can
factor into your career choices upon graduation, it is essential that you
manage your student loan portfolio both during law school and after
graduation. We encourage you to manage
your financial aid actively and intentionally, and not to avoid dealing with
the realities of repayment until graduation.
We have provided links to websites with helpful information about
financial aid that contain loan repayment calculators and other helpful
information to assist you in navigating repayment options. Please visit here for more information on repayment plans and calculators.
How Do I Prepare for Graduation?
As you prepare for graduation, you should ensure that you have a firm command of all of your student loan data. Make sure you have a comprehensive list of all your loans from both undergraduate and graduate studies, as well as the type of loans you have and whether the loan was made under the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program or the Direct Loan Program. After July 1, 2010, all federal loans will be made under the Direct Loan Program. To determine how much you owe, you should visit the National Student Loan Data System.
You should also log on to your servicer/provider's website and create a profile. You can determine who your servicer is by visiting the NSLDS website. Once you have created your servicer profile you can see the balance of federal loans you have taken out for law school, as well as any federal loans that you have from undergraduate or other graduate studies. You will also be able to see the interest rate on each type of loan, and any interest that has accrued thus far. Your servicer will also provide you with detailed information about repayment and consolidation.
Generally, all Stafford loans and all Grad PLUS loans disbursed after July 1, 2008, will have a 6-month grace period after graduation. Please note that interest will continue to accrue on the unsubsidized loans during the grace period. Interest will not accrue on the subsidized loans during the grace period. If you have Grad PLUS loans that were disbursed before July 1, 2008, you will be expected to start making payments within 30 days of graduation.
What Types of Repayment Plans Are There?
Standard Repayment. With this plan, you will pay a fixed amount each month until your loans are paid in full. Your monthly payments will be at least $50, and you will have up to 10 years to repay your loans. Because your monthly payments will be higher than with other plans, you may pay the least amount of interest on your loans.
Extended Repayment. With the extended plan, you will pay a fixed amount each month over a period of not more than 25 years. You must have at least $30,000 in either FFEL or Direct loans in order to qualify for this plan. Although your monthly payments will be lower than under the Standard Plan, you ultimately will pay more on your loans because interest will accrue for a longer period of time.
Graduated Repayment. Under this plan, your loan payments start out low and increase every two years. The length of repayment is up to 10 years. This plan is designed for borrowers who expect their incomes to increase over time. Your monthly payment will never be less than the amount of interest that accrues between payments. Although your monthly payment will gradually increase, no single payment under this plan will be more than three times greater than any other payment.
Income Based Repayment (IBR). IBR became available as of July 1, 2009. Under IBR, the monthly payment is capped at an amount that is intended to be affordable based on income and family size. You are eligible for IBR if the monthly repayment amount under IBR is less than the monthly amount calculated under the 10-year Standard Plan. If you repay under IBR for 25 years, you may be eligible to have any outstanding loan balance cancelled. Additionally, if you work in public service and you have reduced loan payments through IBR, the remaining balance after 10 years in a public service job could be cancelled. For more information about IBR, go to the Federal Student Aid website.
Income Contingent Repayment (ICR). ICR is available for Direct Loans only. Each year, your monthly payments will be calculated on the basis of your adjusted gross income (AGI, plus your spouse’s income if you are married), family size, and total amount of your Direct Loans. Under ICR you pay each month the lesser of:
- The amount you would pay if you repaid your loans in 12 years multiplied by an income percentage factor that varies with your annual income, or
- 20 percent of your monthly discretionary income.
If your payments are not large enough to cover the interest that has accrued on your loans, the unpaid amount will be capitalized once each year. However, capitalization will not exceed 10 percent of the original amount you owed when you entered repayment. Interest will continue to accumulate but will no longer be capitalized. The maximum repayment plan is 25 years. If you haven’t fully repaid your loans after 25 years (not including time spent in deferment or forbearance) under this plan, the unpaid portion will be discharged. You may, however, have to pay taxes on the amount that is discharged.
Repayment. This plan is available
for FFEL loans only. With an
income-sensitive plan, your monthly loan payment is based on your annual
income. As your income increases or
decreases, so do your payments. The
maximum repayment period is 10 years.
You should speak to your lender for more information about income
Pay As You Earn (PAYE). PAYE became available on December 21, 2012. Under PAYE, the monthly payment is capped at an amount that is intended to be affordable
based on income and family size. You are
eligible for PAYE if the monthly repayment amount under PAYE is less than the
monthly amount calculated under the 10-year Standard Plan. If you repay under PAYE for 20 years, you may
be eligible to have any outstanding loan balance cancelled. Additionally, if you work in public service
and you have reduced loan payments through PAYE, the remaining balance after 10
years in a public service job could be cancelled. Visit Federal Student Aid for more information.
What is Public Service Loan Forgiveness?
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program was created to encourage individuals to enter and continue to work full-time in public service jobs. Under this program, you can qualify for forgiveness of the remaining balance due on your eligible federal student loans after you have made 120 payments on loans under IBR, ICR, PAYE, or the Standard Repayment Plan while employed full time by certain public service employers.
Only non-defaulted loans made under the Direct Loan Program (or consolidated into the Direct Loan Program) are eligible for PSLF. If you have loans that were made under another program, like FFEL, you must consolidate them into the Direct Consolidation program and make 120 monthly payments towards the consolidated loans.
What Should I Do if I Have Difficulty Making Payments?
Remember that you have several tools at your disposal to assist you in managing your student loan debt. In addition to choosing one of the repayment options above, there are also other things that you can do if you are having difficulty making payments.
Deferment. Deferment is a temporary suspension of loan payments for specific situations such as reenrollment in school, unemployment, or economic hardship. During deferment, interest does not accrue on subsidized loans, but will accrue on unsubsidized loans. You have to apply for deferment through your loan servicer and you must continue to make payments until you have been notified that your deferment has been granted. Otherwise, you could become delinquent or go into default. Deferments are usually granted in 6-month intervals, for a total of two or three years.
Forbearance. Forbearance is a temporary postponement or reduction of payments for a period of time because you are experiencing financial difficulty. You can receive forbearance if you’re not eligible for a deferment. Unlike deferment, interest accrues on both your subsidized and unsubsidized loans. Your loan holder can grant forbearance in intervals of up to 12 months at a time for up to three years. You have to apply to your loan servicer for forbearance, and you must continue to make payments on your loans until you have been notified that forbearance has been granted.