As college tuition costs steadily rise, many students inquire about ways to pay for a paralegal degree. After all, the College Board reports that the average tuition is $9,139 at public four-year schools and $31,231 at private non-profit four-year colleges each year! Luckily, there are several different methods you can use to make your pathway into a legal career more affordable. Nearly all aspiring paralegals depend on at least one form of financial aid to reach their professional goals in law today. Below we’ve highlighted the most popular monetary resources offered for students looking to pay for a paralegal degree.
Federal and Private Loans
If you’re attending an accredited U.S. institution approved for Title IV funding, then you’ll likely be qualified for borrowing money from the federal government. Future paralegals often use Direct Loans, Federal Perkins Loans, PLUS Loans, and other private loans to finance their education. To apply, you’ll need to accurately complete the FAFSA form anytime from January 1st through the annual deadline on June 30th. Although loans provide access to capital quick, be careful with your borrowing because you’ll need to start repaying the amount plus interest within six months of graduation.
University Financial Aid
Another helpful option for affording your paralegal education will be granted in your university financial aid package. The majority of accredited colleges and universities offering paralegal degree programs offer tuition assistance to those with financial need. Remember that you’ll likely need to be enrolled in a degree-granting academic program at least part-time to qualify though. Some may only apply to tuition, while other forms of financial aid will reduce room and board, textbooks, and fees too. Make a meeting with an admissions counselor in your college’s financial aid office to learn what’s available to you.
Grants and Scholarships
Whether they’re merit-based or need-based, grants and scholarships are a wonderful resource for paralegal students to obtain free gifted money that doesn’t need to be repaid. Federal grant programs include the Pell Grant, FSEOG Grant, and Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant, but your state may have grants too. Scholarships can be found directly through your university or through paralegal associations. For instance, the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) offers the Thomson Reuters Scholarships and PACE Scholarships. The American Association for Paralegal Education also distributes five LEX Scholarships annually.
Working part-time while obtaining your paralegal degree will help considerably in relieving the financial burden of tuition. Many universities participate in a Federal Work-Study program to provide undergraduate and graduate students compensation for part-time employment. You could work on-campus, engage in civic service, or perhaps intern with a law firm. Work-study students earn at least the federal minimum wage, but many positions pay more. The best part of work-study is that universities are more usually more flexible in scheduling work around your paralegal coursework.
Overall, earning a paralegal degree will prepare you for entering an in-demand legal field assisting lawyers, researching laws, and investigating facts. Paralegals bring home an average annual salary of $51,840, but you’ll first need to finance your training to get there. To get the best ROI for your higher education, it’s advised that you apply for several different kinds of financial aid opportunities to minimize loan debt. Utilize the above funding options to pay for a paralegal degree and gather the skills you’ll need to succeed in law.