How to finance your LL.M.

This is an excerpt from "The US LLM: From Whether to When, What, Where, and How" by Desiree Jaeger-Fine. The ebook is available at AmazonBarnes & Noble, and Kobo. It is reprinted with permission. 

Financing the LLM

For many the biggest hurdle in pursuing an LLM is neither choosing a school or LLM program nor the application process, but coming up with the necessary funding. While costs vary among US law schools, LLM 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 LLM dream -- but let us 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 we 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). In order to receive such a subsidized loan, you have to demonstrate financial need. Unsubsidized loans do not offer these benefits, but you do not have to demonstrate financial need in order 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.

We caution that you 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 LLM students, however others do – and some are rather generous. It is always worth asking, but you should have a backup plan. 

The full chapter is available in the ebook. The ebook is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. It is reprinted with permission.