Admissions & Financial Aid

Admissions & Financial Aid

Financial Aid Overview

Estimated expenses (tuition, fees, books, room and board, and personal expenses) for a student enrolled in the School of Law average approximately $35,000 annually for a resident and $50,000 for a nonresident.

Various loan programs are available to law students. Federal Stafford Loans are available up to $20,500 per academic year. Students needing to borrow more than $20,500 may apply for Graduate Plus Loans or for additional funds from a private lender.

Computations used by the School of Law to determine student need for the awarding of need-based scholarships are obtained through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA may be completed on the Web at, or at the University site at Loan applications should be completed by April 1. Even though a formal acceptance decision may not have been made by the School of Law, applicants are advised to apply for loan programs if such aid will be needed.

Federal student loan programs are administered through the University Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships located at 1714 College Street. Questions about loans should be directed to that office at 803-777-8134, or by e-mail at


Merit Scholarships

[computing photo] Merit scholarships provide up to full tuition for three years of law school and are awarded to the most outstanding applicants.

The University of South Carolina Board of Trustees recently set aside significant resources to support merit scholarships. These additional funds allow the School of Law to offer financial assistance to the most highly qualified applicants. Outstanding non-residents are also eligible to receive significantly reduced tuition. These new resources along with scholarships established by alumni and friends of the School of Law serve to offset the cost of a legal education for many USC law students.

To receive priority consideration for merit scholarships, completed files of applicants for first-year admission must be received in the Office of Admissions by February 1. There is no separate application required for merit scholarships. Questions relating to scholarships should be directed to the Office of Admissions at the School of Law.

Federal Stafford Loans

General Information

There are two parts of a Stafford loan: a subsidized and a non-subsidized portion. The federal government pays the interest on the subsidized portion (up to $8,500 per year) while the student is in school, during a specified grace period, and during approved periods of deferment of repayment, which begins six months after the borrower leaves school or drops below half-time attendance.

The government does not pay interest on the non-subsidized part (another $10,000 per year if the student has received the full $8,500 subsidized loan portion); interest accrues while the student is in school. Payments on the unsubsidized Stafford loan may be deferred during the in-school period, and for six months after graduation. Repayment is completed over a 10-year period, unless the borrower chooses to extend payments via loan consolidation after graduation.

Federal Stafford loans and other federal loans, such as the Perkins, may be consolidated into one loan with up to a 30-year repayment period. Law students may apply for up to $18,500 per academic year, to an aggregate maximum of $138,500 graduate and undergraduate Stafford loans.

All Stafford applicants must undergo a needs analysis to determine an expected family contribution. For graduate students, no parental data is used, only that of the student and his or her dependents. For this purpose, a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) must be completed. Those who meet the government's criteria for need receive a subsidized Stafford loan of up to $8,500, and another $10,000 non-subsidized; those who do not may borrow a non-subsidized Stafford loan of $18,500.

Application Process

To apply for federal Stafford loans, you and your spouse (or fiancé) must submit the FAFSA to the designated federal processor. You must also select a lender. Our students typically use the South Carolina Student Loan Corporation, The Access Group or Sallie Mae. The lender will record all application information and you will electronically sign a preprinted master promissory note (MPN).

Loan funds from lenders are typically deposited directly into a student's account by electronic funds transfer (EFT) each semester. Federal regulations now mandate that electronically transmitted loan funds not used within three days of disbursement be returned by the school to the lender. Some lenders may send paper checks payable to the student and the school for each disbursement. Paper checks must be signed by the student before the University may deposit them, and returned to the lender if not deposited within 10 days of issue.

Federal Graduate PLUS Loans

The Graduate PLUS loan, or GradPLUS for short, is a new federal loan program established to meet costs of education less any other aid. The interest rate is fixed for the life of the loan at 8.5%. Lenders offer various repayment incentives that can lower this rate further. GradPLUS has the same payment deferment and forbearance options as the Federal Stafford Loan (e.g. hardship, unemployment [3 years] and in-school [unlimited for half-time enrollment]). Most commercial loans only offer one year of forbearance. Lenders are required by federal regulation to charge an "origination fee" of 3%, and the guarantor may charge a federal default fee of 1%. Each lender will deal with these differently. Loan eligibility is based on the federal standard (no adverse credit, e.g., no past-due payments, charge-offs, collections in the past 90 days) as opposed to your credit score. The interest rate charged is the same for all borrowers. The GradPLUS may be consolidated with other federal loans.

Application Process

Your eligibility for the Federal Stafford Loan must first be determined, so you need to file the FAFSA and apply for the Federal Stafford Loan and the Federal GradPLUS loan online with the lender of your choice. You do not actually have to accept the Stafford in order to borrow GradPLUS, but the Stafford Loan has a lower interest rate, so unless you are over your aggregate limit on Federal Stafford borrowing ($138,500), you probably will want to borrow the Stafford first, and then GradPLUS.

Federal Perkins Loans

Loans under this program are available, in varying amounts and at a fixed 5% interest rate, to a limited number of entering students. The combined undergraduate and graduate amount a student may borrow is $18,000. Repayment may be made over a five- to ten-year period, depending upon the amount borrowed, beginning six to nine months after graduation. Like the federal Stafford loan, the government pays the interest on Perkins while the student is enrolled in school at least half-time, during the six- to nine-month grace period, and during approved periods of deferment of repayment.

There are no special application forms required other than those used to apply for the Stafford loan, although Perkins loan promissory notes must be signed prior to receipt of funds. Students who qualify for the full Stafford loan and still demonstrate financial need will automatically be considered for Perkins loans.

Private Loans

The South Carolina Student Loan Corporation, The Access Group and Sallie Mae Law Loans (among many other lenders) offer commercial, cost-based loans to credit worthy applicants. The interest rate is typically determined by adding percentage points to the 91-day Treasury bill, LIBOR (London Interbank Offered Rate), or prime rate; a guarantee fee and/or insurance fee may be charged, as well as a fee added on at the time of repayment, based on a percentage of the total amount borrowed.

Some programs allow students to defer payments of interest and principal during enrollment. Repayment on such loans usually begins within two to nine months of the student's last day of half-time enrollment, at which time both interest and principal become due. Payments may be made monthly or quarterly, with 10 to 20 years to repay. Monthly repayment schedules depend on the amount borrowed, the time taken to repay the loan, whether repayment of interest was deferred until after graduation, and the interest rate.

Application Process

You should first file the FAFSA to determine eligibility for the federal Stafford loan. After this process, if you wish to apply for a commercial loan, apply by telephone, Internet, or paper for the loan of your choice. Depending on the lender, notification of pre-approval (for phone or Internet filers) usually occurs within 48 hours, at which time a paper application and promissory note are sent to you for completion, or printed out by you online. Forward the loan application to the lender and send the University Office of Financial Aid a copy. The University Office of Financial Aid certifies eligibility and submits the application to the lender. Once approved, most disbursements are sent electronically to your VIP online account at the start of each semester. Other types of commercial loans are disbursed by paper check each semester, payable to you and to the University of South Carolina.

Other Questions?

Check our list of Financial Aid Frequently Asked Questions.