Federal Loans

The UW-Madison Office of Student Financial Aid (OFSA) administers federal loans for all UW-Madison students, including law students. Please contact the OSFA with questions regarding federal loans, and be prepared to provide your campus ID number. 

Current and admitted students may also schedule an appointment with either OSFA or the Law School Office of Admissions & Financial Aid to discuss individual questions relating to applying for, accepting, disbursement, and repayment of their federal student loans.

Eligible law students may borrow two types federal loans: Direct Unsubsidized Loans and Direct Graduate PLUS Loans.

Applying for Federal Loans

To apply for federal loans, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as October 1st for the following fall, and specify the University of Wisconsin (School Code 003895) as one of the schools that has access to your data. Law students are considered independent students for financial aid purposes, so you will not be required to provide parental financial data on your FAFSA. 

The OSFA may contact you if additional documentation is required to process your FAFSA. Please provide this information as soon as possible to ensure timely processing. 

If you would like to be considered for Direct Graduate PLUS Loans and/or Work-Study, please be sure to follow the application instructions on the OSFA's website. The Direct Graduate PLUS Loan application typically opens on April 1 for the following fall.

Please visit the OFSA's website for further information about applying for federal loans.

Your Offer

The OSFA will notify you via email when your financial aid award offer is available in your Student Center for you to accept or decline. 

Your offer will likely include a Direct Unsubsidized Loan up to $20,500; your offer will not include Direct Graduate PLUS Loans nor Work-Study unless you apply for them.

If you applied and are approved for a Direct Graduate PLUS Loan, your offer will include a Direct Graduate PLUS Loan up to your cost of attendance minus the amount you are awarded in Direct Unsubsidized Loans and any other financial assistance that you may be receiving (including scholarships, tuition waivers, fellowships and Work-Study).

If you applied for Work-Study, your offer will likely include an award of approximately $2,000 to $2,200.

Please visit the OSFA's website for further information about financial aid award offers.

Please note that the Law School Admissions and Financial Aid Office awards all law school scholarships. You will receive a separate email from the Law School Admissions and Financial Aid Office regarding any law school scholarships offered to you.

Disbursement of Loans and Refund Checks

Federal loans are disbursed into students' tuition accounts approximately 10 days prior to the start of classes each semester.  After tuition is paid, any balance is refunded back to the borrower. If you sign up for e-refunds, the balance will be direct deposited to your preferred bank account. Learn how to sign up for e-refunds through your MyUW Student Center on the Bursar's website. If you do not sign up for e-refunds, you will receive a check mailed to the mailing address listed in your Student Center.

Reapplication Process for Continuing Students

As a continuing student, you must reapply for federal financial aid each year.  To reapply, you must follow the steps outlined above.  You can complete your FAFSA as soon as October 1st for the following fall. The priority deadline for completing your FAFSA is December 1st.  Students intending to study abroad with another law school’s program should consult the OSFA for a list of additional information you will need to submit with your financial aid application.

Private Loans

Please visit the OSFA's website for more information about private loans (including a useful private loan comparison tool).

Ensuring Sufficient Financial Aid

To determine how much financial aid you will need, you should compare your personal nine-month school year budget to the Student Expense Budget created by the OSFA.  For the 2023-24 academic year, the OSFA estimates that the average law student living in Madison will need approximately $2,732.22 per month (Resident)/$2,796.67 per month (Non-Resident).  This figure is obtained by adding the estimated costs of required course material & educational supplies, housing, meals, transportation, and personal expenses 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 $2,732.22 per month (Resident)/$2,796.67 per month (Non-Resident), you may not need to accept all the loans for which you are eligible.  If your expenses are more than $2,732.22 per month (Resident)/$2,796.67 per month (Non-Resident), you may need to contact the OSFA and request a budget adjustment.  

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 $2,732.22 per month (Resident)/$2,796.67 per month (Non-Resident) figure if possible. If you are following the Thrifty Budget, your monthly expenses should not be more than $2,145.33 per month (Resident)/$2,209.77 per month (Non-Resident).

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.

Insufficient 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 prior to law school:

    The FAFSA data used to complete your federal award letter is based on your income two years prior to the year for which you will be seeking federal aid. For example, if you are applying for federal aid for the 2023-2024 academic year, you will submit 2021 tax information on your FAFSA. If you worked full-time during the tax year that you are reporting, but do not plan to work full-time during law school, you may be in a significantly different financial situation than that reported on your FAFSA. Students in this situation should notify the OSFA of their change in level of income as soon as possible so that this special circumstance can be considered. To do so, send a written statement explaining your change in circumstances, along with supporting documentation, to the OSFA by mail, fax, or email, after you have submitted your FAFSA.

  2. 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 seek a budget adjustment.

  3. 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 seek a budget adjustment.

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 whether you should seek a budget adjustment.

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 Admissions and Financial Aid Office.

Managing Student Loans During Law School and After Graduation

The majority of law students take out student loans to cover at least a portion of their cost of attendance. 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 to not avoid addressing realities of repayment until graduation.

The Law School Admissions and Financial Aid Office will host regular seminars and presentations throughout your time in law school to help you understand your loan obligations as well as repayment options, and we encourage you to meet with a financial aid advisor to discuss your loan obligations and repayment options.

Keep in mind that financial aid legislation is always changing.  It's critical that you stay informed of changes as they might affect your repayment terms or provide you with different opportunities to lower your debt burden.

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. Identify who the lender is for each loan, the account numbers, the type of loan (e.g. Subsidized or Unsubsidized), as well as whether the loan was borrowed under the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program or the Direct Loan Program. You can find much of this information by logging in to StudentAid.gov. If you are not able to find the information online, contact your lender or servicer.

Generally, your federal loans will have a six-month grace period for repayment after graduation. However, this may not be the case for all of your loans. For example, if you took time off before law school, you may have already used up the grace period on your undergraduate loans. You should ensure that you know when your first payment is due for each loan. If you are not contacted around graduation time regarding repayment, you should contact your lender or servicer. Make certain that your lender or servicer always has your most up-to-date contact information. Failure to receive a bill is not a valid defense against defaulting on your loans. Remember, you are ultimately responsible for repaying your student loans. Failing to do so in a timely manner may result in damage to your credit score and other long-term consequences.

What Types of Repayment Plans Are There?

There are various federal loan repayment plans that may be available to you, depending on your individual loan portfolio. You can choose the option that best meets your needs based on your financial goals and what you can afford to pay each month. You can change your repayment plan by contacting your servicer. To see a full list of federal student loan repayment plans and associated calculators, visit StudentAid.gov. If you have questions about your loan repayment options, you can contact the Office of Student Financial Aid or the Law School Admissions and Financial Aid Office.

Do I Qualify For Repayment Assistance?

Depending on your post-graduation plans, you may qualify for loan repayment assistance under Public Service Loan Forgiveness or the Law School Loan Repayment Assistance Program.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

In 2007, Congress created the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF) to encourage individuals to work full time in public service jobs. Under this program, borrowers may qualify for forgiveness of the remaining balance due on their eligible federal student loans after they have made 120 payments on those loans under certain repayment plans while employed full time by certain public service employers. To find out more about PSLF and other types of loan cancellation or discharge, visit https://studentaid.gov/manage-loans/forgiveness-cancellation/public-service.

Loan Repayment Assistance Program

The Law School sponsors a Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP), which provides small grants to students who accept permanent public interest jobs after graduation. Since its inception in 2002, the LRAP has provided from between two to six months of loan repayment in the form of a lump sum payment upon the student's acceptance of a "qualifying position." The size of they award may vary depending on the applicant pool and the applicants' debt obligations. "Qualifying positions" include legal positions at a nonprofit organization or government agency with a specific maximum annual salary.

What Should I Do if I Have Difficulty Making Payments? (Deferment & Forbearance)

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.


A deferment is a temporary period during which no payments are made on your loan. While you are in deferment, the government pays the interest on any subsidized loans, but interest accrues on your unsubsidized loans. However, you do not have to pay the interest while in deferment; you can allow the accrued interest to be capitalized (added to the principal balance of your loan) when you leave deferment. The lender adds the number of months during which a loan was in deferment to the repayment period. 

Reasons for deferment:

  1. Education-related
  2. Economic hardship
  3. Unemployment
  4. Military service
  5. Post-active duty

Learn more about deferment.


Forbearance can help you meet your loan repayment obligations by allowing a temporary cessation of payments, an extension of the time available for making payments, or smaller payments than previously scheduled. A student can apply for a forbearance if they cannot make their monthly loan payments and they do not qualify for a deferment.

There are several types of forbearance on federal loans. Your loan servicer may grant forbearance only if they believe that you intend to repay your federal loans, but that you are currently unable to make payments due to poor health or other acceptable reasons, including financial hardship. Forbearance can be given up to one year at a time. Contact your loan servicer for more information and to obtain any needed forms to apply for forbearance.

Learn more about forbearance.

Tuition & Financial Aid Pages

Office of Student Financial Aid

333 East Campus Mall #9701, Madison, WI 53715



Law School Admissions & Financial Aid Office

975 Bascom Mall, Room 6210, Madison, WI 53706



Lock Icon