Possibilities to Finance Your LL.M.

 

By Desiree Jaeger-Fine 

For many the biggest hurdle in pursuing an LL.M. is neither choosing a school or LL.M. program nor the application process, but coming up with the necessary funding. While costs vary among US law schools, LL.M. program tuition at many schools is somewhere in the $50,000 range – and this does not include fees or expenses for housing, health insurance, books, food, travel, or entertainment. One year of study can easily cost between $60,000 and $80,000. For some of you, this may seem like the end of the LL.M. dream – but let me stop you right here. Even though this is an incredible amount of money there are ways to deal with it. Here are some ideas and resources that may help you locate funding sources both inside and outside the US.

1. Possibilities in the US

a. Student Loans

Student loans are a form of financial aid that must be repaid. There are a variety of student loans but to keep it simple I divide them into federal loans and private loans.

• Federal Loans

Federal loans have different names such as Stafford Loan, Federal Direct Student Loans, PLUS Loans, or Perkins Loans, and come in two varieties: direct subsidized and direct unsubsidized. The terms of a subsidized loan are slightly better than those of an unsubsidized loan. When you receive a subsidized loan, the US government will pay the interest on the loan while you are enrolled at least part- time, during a grace period of six months after you leave school, and during a period of deferment (a postponement of loan payments). To receive such a subsidized loan, you must demonstrate financial need. Unsubsidized loans do not offer these benefits, but you do not have to demonstrate financial need to secure one.

The catch is that in order to receive federal loans you have to either be a US citizen, or a permanent resident. This unfortunately won't apply to most prospective LLM students.

• Private Loans

Private loans are given to students by banks or finance companies. The terms of the loans vary from lender to lender, so it is difficult to make any general statements. What can be said though is that the terms are less flexible than federal loans, especially when it comes to the repayment period. The catch with private loans again is that for the most part they are granted only to US citizens and permanent residents. However, a few US banks will offer student loans to international students if the loan is co-signed by a creditworthy US citizen or permanent resident. 

b. Grants and Scholarships

Grants and scholarships are awards that do not have to be repaid. They differ from one another in that a scholarship is given based on merit, while a grant is given based on need. Grants and scholarships may come from US government departments, or public or private trusts and foundations. Some may require either citizenship or permanent residency.

I caution to never pay to search or apply for scholarships or grants. If a grant or scholarship search engine or application form asks for a credit card or other financial information, don't use it!

c. Fulbright Scholarships

The Fulbright program, sponsored by the US government, is active in more than 155 countries around the world. There is a difference between a Fulbright foreign student and a Fulbright foreign scholar. While the former is for graduate students, young professionals, and artists who would like to study in the US, the latter enables college and university faculty members with a Ph.D. to teach and conduct research in the US. Therefore, you should seek information for Fulbright students. Fulbright scholarships are very competitive and awards are based on your academic and professional profile. You can find information about eligibility and the application process organized by country on the official Fulbright program webpage. 

d. Financial Aid from Your Law School

You should certainly ask for financial aid at the law schools to which you are applying. Some law schools don't have any offerings for international LL.M. students, however others do – and some are rather generous. It is always worth asking, but you should have a backup plan.

2. Possibilities in your home country

There may be some options to secure funding through domestic or international associations and organizations. Since every country is different, you would need to research possibilities that might be applicable to you. Following are some places to start:

a. Student Loans

• Government Loans

Some countries offer loan type financing for their citizens wishing to study abroad. While you are probably tired of doing online research after choosing a law school and an LLM program, you unfortunately have to do it again. Another option is to go to the international or exchange office at your home university or to the nearest US embassy or consulate – these offices are most likely very prepared for such questions and often have a list of resources for you to consider.

• Private Loans

The terms of private loans vary not only from country to country but also from lender to lender. It is worthwhile asking your home bank if they offer financial assistance for studying abroad. 

b. Grants and Scholarships 

I suggest consulting an EducationUSA advising center if there is one located somewhere near you. EducationUSA is a network of hundreds of advising centers in 170 countries, where millions of international students each year find comprehensive and current information about US higher education, including grants and scholarships. The EducationUSA network is supported by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Unfortunately, most of the various online scholarship search engines are geared towards undergraduate education, often called “college.” You may search for scholarship opportunities using their search functions and, once you know the association or organization, reach out to them and ask if they also provide scholarships for Master of Laws studies. However, since this is a little cumbersome I would only suggest this as a very last resort.

c. Foundation Scholarships

There are numerous international service organizations, such as Rotary International, which among other things facilitate study abroad by providing scholarships to exceptional students. Several these are targeted toward students with a demographic make-up, such as those coming from a particular country. Chambers of Commerce sometimes also offer scholarships for LL.M. students or resources for locating sources of funding.

 


Desiree Jaeger-Fine is principal of Jaeger-Fine Consulting, LLC, a career management firm for international attorneys in New York, and author of "A Short & Happy Guide to Networking"(West Academic Publishing) and "A Short & Happy Guide to Being Hired"(West Academic Publishing).