Am I actually supposed to graduate with $150k debt?

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blackmun47
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Am I actually supposed to graduate with $150k debt?

Postby blackmun47 » Thu Mar 04, 2010 2:57 am

This may be a dumb question... I graduated with $0 debt from undergrad so I've never had to go through any student financial aid process before.

I do have some small scholarship offers at a few schools (nothing that goes beyond half tuition). A couple of schools that I really want to go to will likely be costing sticker.... which means, more or less, $40 - $50k per year in loans.

Does anyone actually take out three full years of loans to cover law school? Is it actually worth it? I'm looking at schools with a strong regional reputation (santa clara, lewis&clark, villanova, etc), so nothing like T14.

I just don't know if anyone does this, and don't want to put myself in the position where I made a dumb decision by over-leveraging myself and be the only person in law school who has $150k in debt upon graduation.
(Of course, everyone who posts on this forum expects to be in the top 10% of their class and join biglaw and make six figures per year after graduation...... and while that is my goal as well, I'm also being a little realistic about what type of school I'm going to and realizing that 90% of students aren't in the top 10% of the class)

Advice??

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phoenix323
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Re: Am I actually supposed to graduate with $150k debt?

Postby phoenix323 » Thu Mar 04, 2010 3:07 am

I am also curious about this. Is it possible to get scholarships for 2L and 3L if one does very well their first year?

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OneKnight
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Re: Am I actually supposed to graduate with $150k debt?

Postby OneKnight » Thu Mar 04, 2010 3:08 am

blackmun47 wrote:This may be a dumb question... I graduated with $0 debt from undergrad so I've never had to go through any student financial aid process before.

I do have some small scholarship offers at a few schools (nothing that goes beyond half tuition). A couple of schools that I really want to go to will likely be costing sticker.... which means, more or less, $40 - $50k per year in loans.

Does anyone actually take out three full years of loans to cover law school? Is it actually worth it? I'm looking at schools with a strong regional reputation (santa clara, lewis&clark, villanova, etc), so nothing like T14.

I just don't know if anyone does this, and don't want to put myself in the position where I made a dumb decision by over-leveraging myself and be the only person in law school who has $150k in debt upon graduation.
(Of course, everyone who posts on this forum expects to be in the top 10% of their class and join biglaw and make six figures per year after graduation...... and while that is my goal as well, I'm also being a little realistic about what type of school I'm going to and realizing that 90% of students aren't in the top 10% of the class)

Advice??


From what I understand, Biglaw's going to be nigh impossible outside of the top 50 law schools. Perhaps you should take the $$ at lower ranked schools (unless they're tier 4, which is probably not worth it either way). Or retake the LSAT to get some $$ at schools like Santa Clara or Lewis&Clark...
But, yeah, if Biglaw's your goal, those schools will make it a challenge that exceeds "just" getting into the top 10% of your class.
My $0.02

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OneKnight
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Re: Am I actually supposed to graduate with $150k debt?

Postby OneKnight » Thu Mar 04, 2010 3:08 am

phoenix323 wrote:I am also curious about this. Is it possible to get scholarships for 2L and 3L if one does very well their first year?


Yes. But I wouldn't go to a school counting on this.

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sundevil77
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Re: Am I actually supposed to graduate with $150k debt?

Postby sundevil77 » Thu Mar 04, 2010 3:09 am

'Tis the question, my friend, 'tis the question. When you find the answer please let me know.

Okay, I'm only half joking. IMO you have to think about what you want to do in the future. Whatever that is, how much better of chance are you going to have of doing it if you go to the better school? Do a little expected additional benefit - expected additional cost and I think you'll get your answer. The really hard (probably impossible) part of the whole equation is accurately gauging the difference in opportunities at the two schools.

blackmun47
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Re: Am I actually supposed to graduate with $150k debt?

Postby blackmun47 » Thu Mar 04, 2010 3:16 am

I'm realistic that biglaw is very likely NOT going to happen for me by going to the schools I'm looking at. But, Santa Clara does have exceedingly high average starting salaries, Lewis&Clark monopolizes Portland, and Villanova does well in NJ and Philly. The schools do have a strong value proposition for what it's worth, so, I do think it's reasonable to be making at least the average starting salary at these schools.

Anyway --- the question is, do law school students actually take out more than $100k in debt? Or, would I be one of very few people to do this?

I simply don't know what's expected or standard in law school.

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sanpiero
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Re: Am I actually supposed to graduate with $150k debt?

Postby sanpiero » Thu Mar 04, 2010 3:16 am

Nearly everyone takes out loans each year to cover tuition and expenses. Those who come straight from undergrad or without substantial savings, borrow the entire cost of their education. The minute percentage of students who land SA gigs, of course, are able to pay a portion back (or take out less) before the end of 3L.

That said, I would not pay $150k to go to a school outside the T25 (maybe even T20 or T14 ITE) unless I wanted to work in PI.

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Notor
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Re: Am I actually supposed to graduate with $150k debt?

Postby Notor » Thu Mar 04, 2010 3:20 am

Either retake the LSAT or go to your state school.

r6_philly
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Re: Am I actually supposed to graduate with $150k debt?

Postby r6_philly » Thu Mar 04, 2010 3:21 am

blackmun47 wrote:

Does anyone actually take out three full years of loans to cover law school? Is it actually worth it? I'm looking at schools with a strong regional reputation (santa clara, lewis&clark, villanova, etc), so nothing like T14.




Yes. Maybe. Depends.

Actually you can take out more than $150k because you need living expenses and more unless you have resources. Worth it or not is your decision, no one but you can answer that. Some people will gladly pay $150k for a legal education and some will not even want to give up the wages you would lose. Regional schools place decently but it depends on what you want to do. If not big law then $150k is a big chunk. However, my crappy house is over $150k and it is payable, and will probably be worth it if you end up loving what you do because of the education. A lot of people also take advantage of PI pay back options. Fed loans also have income based repayments so it may not be that big of payment but you will always be carrying that debt (like a 2nd mortgage lol).

I will take on $150k, but only for certain schools because what I will get. Outside of my target schools I would need a full ride + fellowship to sway me.

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sanpiero
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Re: Am I actually supposed to graduate with $150k debt?

Postby sanpiero » Thu Mar 04, 2010 3:21 am

blackmun47 wrote:I'm realistic that biglaw is very likely NOT going to happen for me by going to the schools I'm looking at. But, Santa Clara does have exceedingly high average starting salaries, Lewis&Clark monopolizes Portland, and Villanova does well in NJ and Philly. The schools do have a strong value proposition for what it's worth, so, I do think it's reasonable to be making at least the average starting salary at these schools.

Anyway --- the question is, do law school students actually take out more than $100k in debt? Or, would I be one of very few people to do this?

I simply don't know what's expected or standard in law school.


Look at the "percentage reporting" statistics when reviewing salary stats. Also, keep in my that we have an entirely different economy today than we did when those stats were generated. If you think you are going to go to SCU or L&C and come out making a ton of money without exceptional grades, you should reassess your reasoning.

TTT schools are notorious for reporting misleading salary data to USN.

BruinsFan
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Re: Am I actually supposed to graduate with $150k debt?

Postby BruinsFan » Thu Mar 04, 2010 3:29 am

I had the same thoughts/problem with this. I applied part time and plan on working to cover my living expenses and living at home.

I may transfer to full time 2L and 3L, but probably won't. I know I'll miss out on a year of earning and this decision is arguable, but I want to give the economy another year to, hopefully, turn around AND I want to graduate with less than 100k in debt.

My payments will be more manageable and I won't feel like I'm putting a mortgage on my life. This isn't the easiest way, but I think it'll be the best way for me.

stad2234
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Re: Am I actually supposed to graduate with $150k debt?

Postby stad2234 » Thu Mar 04, 2010 3:32 am

As most people have already stated it all depends. I myself will be taking out loans for school and will be attending either University of Oregon or Seattle U. In order to make the investment worth your while in a lower ranked school (i.e. 2nd Tier) I personally believe you need to be in the top 15/20% of your class. You also need to attend a school in the area that you want to practice b/c if its not a top ranked school chances are it isnt going to place well outside of the state/region. So if you want to work in Portland go to U of O or L&C and if you want to work in Seattle go to SU. If you find yourself in the top of your class you'll do just fine for yourself and even if you dont youll still probably do ok. All you need to do is look at the associates at some of the top firms in the Seattle or Portland area and you will see that plenty are from 2nd Tier Schools. All the doom and gloom speak of T-14 or bust is honestly a bunch of crap unless you are only looking at landing a job in Palo Alto/NYC/DC

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Aeroplane
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Re: Am I actually supposed to graduate with $150k debt?

Postby Aeroplane » Thu Mar 04, 2010 8:55 am

blackmun47 wrote: Anyway --- the question is, do law school students actually take out more than $100k in debt? Or, would I be one of very few people to do this?

I simply don't know what's expected or standard in law school.
I'm not sure about $100K. If you take out over $150K in loan principal, I'm pretty sure you will be in more debt than most law students on graduation. Private tuitions are around $40-$50K, but many state schools are much cheaper. In addition to loans, students pay for law school with the aid of grants from their school, family/spouse's money, personal savings, and outside scholarships. Also, many students receive non-monetary assistance from family or a SO that allows them to avoid spending money: housing, health insurance, food, clothes, plane tickets, etc.

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Sauer Grapes
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Re: Am I actually supposed to graduate with $150k debt?

Postby Sauer Grapes » Thu Mar 04, 2010 9:08 am

For the schools you are considering, all good schools, but not anywhere near the T14, I say go where you get the most money.

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WithGrace23
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Re: Am I actually supposed to graduate with $150k debt?

Postby WithGrace23 » Thu Mar 04, 2010 9:29 am

My friend who graduated from Villanova two years ago started with a small scholarship (comparatively because it's so expensive), but she did really well during 1L (top 5% of her class) and got a full tuition scholarship for the next two years.

Like you said, you can't count on being in the top 5%, but if you do really well you can get scholarship boosts from nova for the second and third years.

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ruleser
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Re: Am I actually supposed to graduate with $150k debt?

Postby ruleser » Thu Mar 04, 2010 9:36 am

Its nice to see no one call flame on this.

I agree w/above posters - in general, 100kto 150k is the limit I'd consider for a topisj regional - meaning max 60kish in total 3/year tuition. I'm still keeping pt as an option, as I have a solid paying job that will work w/my schedule. But that is only even a consid because of the $ I make and we have a legal dept I can sort of intern in while doing it. In general, 1l is the most impt year they say. After that, they say u can work pt while in school, and summers - if you can find something.

But with the amount, depends on your market. Out here in so cal, for example, 100-150k is only about 1/3 of a house. So as a worst case (if I don't get a big salary out of it), I am ok with continuing to rent mediocre apts and not have a house in order to be able to practice law. But salaries down here are higher than many places.

So be practical, go to a loan repayment calculator (american u's law site has a great one), see what the payment will be, also remember you will be paying in after tax $, so add about 1/3 to figure how much monthly in earning that is, and decide if you can/will sacrifice that.

Your cash#s are borderline. 150k may be doable/a good investment- it may be excess burden. 100k or under is a much nicer #.

narkizopoint
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Re: Am I actually supposed to graduate with $150k debt?

Postby narkizopoint » Thu Mar 04, 2010 9:45 am

I crunched the numbers and found that if my wife doesn't work and watches my two kids and I dont work at all during 2L and 3L in addition to my 1L I will top out at borrowing 208,000 :shock: and bottom out at 165,000 :o with the options I have right now.

Needless to say, I really, really, really want the wife to work. :wink:

ram jam
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Re: Am I actually supposed to graduate with $150k debt?

Postby ram jam » Thu Mar 04, 2010 10:06 am

I have the same internal struggle day and night. There must be a point at which the marginal cost exceeds marginal benefit for the amount of loans one must bare given a certain school. However, this point is often shrouded by phony employment and salary stats, fluctuations in the economy and the fact that each person has different outcomes. For example, one could attend a t50 school, incur $180,000 in loans, graduate in the top 25% and, with good interview technique, land a firm job that pays over $100k comfortably pay the $1700-$2000/month for the student loans. However, one could attend said school and incur the same amount of debt and have an entirely different outcome and end up defaulting on their loans. Now, obviously the default rate for law school student loans is incredibly low, even in this economy (If a considerable amount of people defaulted it would be a lot harder to secure loans). So lawyers pay back their loans one way or another. But the debt is still frightening as it diminishes quality of life. The legal market is down and it is over saturated, salaries are lower and firm jobs are less secure. One can still make a fine living as an attorney, no doubt, but it has gotten a little riskier, even more reason to reduce the debt.

How much debt is too much? The answer to that question still eludes many of us.

angioletto
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Re: Am I actually supposed to graduate with $150k debt?

Postby angioletto » Thu Mar 04, 2010 11:29 pm

I think it also depends on what sort of plan you have for after graduation. My husband and I are working very hard to make sure that we can survive almost solely on his income while I am in law school. I may take out $10,000/year for COL to help. His income is actually very low and we have kids, but we are making it work by being very, very frugal.

Then, once I graduate, we will continue living the same frugal way for several more years while I pour 70-80% of my starting salary into my student loan debt. I will also have a bit of debt from UG to add to my LS debt. If my contribution to our income is only $10k/year even a salary of $50/60k would allow me to put large portions of that money towards my loan debt and pay it off quickly.

Some people think that as soon as you have a decent salary you need to run out and buy a house and a car to match it - the bigger the salary the bigger the house and the fancier the car. While we would like to upgrade someday we are managing just fine on 800 sq feet and with our modest cars.




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