LLM Funding for Domestic Students

For some lawyers who decide to pursue an LLM, gaining acceptance into a particular program is not the main challenge.  Instead, obtaining the necessary funds to cover tuition and living expenses during the year of study is the most worrisome obstacle.

If funding your LLM is something you could use a bit of advice about, you’ll find helpful tips and information in the sections below.  This post covers the expenses you can expect to be responsible for, as well as sources of funding that you should investigate.

The Costs of Obtaining an LLM

·      Tuition.  Tuition will likely be your largest education expense.  The most affordable schools charge around $10,000 in tuition, while elite institutions such as Harvard charge nearly $50,000.  For public schools that are run by the various states, however, many offer more favorable rates to residents than those who will be traveling in from out-of-state.  For example, Florida State University charges about $30,000 to non-residents, but only approximately $16,000 for residents.

While it is difficult to generalize across programs, candidates can expect LLM funding costs to be highest at the highest-ranked schools.  If a quality program exists in your home state, it may present the best value and deserves close investigation as you conduct your search.  Otherwise, it will be important to choose an institution that is not only affordable, considering your available financial resources (more on these below), but that provides you with good value for your tuition dollar.  A school with a favorable reputation may be worth the increased cost, especially if the school is well known in the area in which you expect to work.  On the other hand, an inexpensive school may leave you unencumbered with debt and more able to pursue a wider variety of career paths.

·      Related education expenses.  Along with tuition, funding your LLM will require the payment of several fees that vary by institution.  These include student association fees, health and other facility fees, parking fees, application fees, and the like.  Applicants should budget to spend an extra thousand dollars, if not more, on miscellaneous fees and costs charged by their institutions, or that relate to the program in some way.  To this, add the cost of books (another thousand or more), and the cost of a serviceable computer, if you do not already have one.  It doesn’t need to be fancy, but a laptop is a must-have for most students.  It’s possible to get by without one, but it won’t be at all convenient, and will add unnecessary difficulty to an already-challenging program.

·      Living expenses.  Along with education expenses, a comprehensive LLM funding budget must include living expenses such as housing, food, and other miscellaneous living expenses.  On the very low end, these expenses might total about $20,000, but this can vary greatly depending on your standard of living.  For those students that are self-sufficient, the entire cost will be borne by the student.  For those with partners, parents, or other friends or family that are willing to offer support, these expenses may be entirely covered.  In addition, many institutions offer campus or similar housing for LLM students that can be a good value.  After that, it will be important to keep living expenses within your means and to keep debt accumulation under control.

·      Lost income.  If you are currently an active practitioner, as many LLM students are, lost income and work disruption should be taken into account as a cost of obtaining an LLM  Some programs may have rules about working while seeking the degree, but there are many LLM students that work part time while obtaining their degree.  Be sure to research an institution’s work policy if you are planning on continuing your practice while seeking your LLM

Total estimated cost range to obtain an LLM: $35,000 to $75,000.

Sources of LLM Funding

·      Loans.  To apply for student loans, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.  In general, it is possible to borrow all of the necessary costs of your education, including living expenses, using a combination of government-backed student loans and private loans.

·      Scholarships / Grants / Fellowships.  There are a wide variety of scholarships available for LLM funding, depending on many factors such as aptitude, background, and more.  A fairly comprehensive guide for both international and domestic students can be found here.  In addition, grants and fellowships may be available to those that are interested in certain fields of study.

·      Employer-funded programs.  Your current employer or law firm may have programs through which they provide employees with assistance in obtaining educational credentials.  Check with your HR department to find out.  Some employers will cover the entire cost of LLM funding, especially if it opens up new practice areas or solves an ongoing problem that the company needs additional expertise to deal with.

·      Working / Savings.  If you have worked for a number of years and have built up a bit of savings, you may be able to cover the cost of your LLM yourself.  In certain special situations, it is also possible to take a loan from your 401(k) or other retirement account for the purpose of obtaining a degree.

·      Family and Friends.  If all else fails, there may be generous members in your own personal network than can help you obtain your desired credentials.