Northwestern Law is committed to offering a variety of financing options for our students. In planning your financing strategy, students should explore all available loan options and understand the benefits, terms, and responsibilities of borrowing loans. Please refer to the eligibility requirements for more information.
Students must choose if they want to fund their education with a Graduate PLUS loan OR a private (alternative) loan to cover their cost of attendance NOT covered with federal Stafford and/or Perkins loans. If a student opts for a private loan, students must first borrow federal Stafford and/or Perkins loans for which they are eligible before borrowing through institutional or private educational loan funds.
For more information about Northwestern's loan policies, visit Chicago Office of Financial Aid.
Federal Stafford Loan
Federal Stafford Loans are the most commonly borrowed student loans available to graduate and professional students. Under the Direct Lending program from the Department of Education, federal Stafford loans are federally insured and the loans are cancelled in the event of the death or permanent and total disability of the borrower.
Starting in July 2012, the Federal Stafford Loan program consists only of the Unsubsidized Stafford Loan Program.
Federal Grad PLUS Loan
Federal Graduate PLUS Loans are available to graduate and professional students. This loan is not based on financial need as students can use the Federal Graduate PLUS loan to meet unmet financial need and/or replace an expected family contribution.
The federal Graduate PLUS loan is approved based off of credit history; however, these loans generally have a less-stringent credit review than private, non-federal loans. Although it is not based off of a credit score, approval for the federal Graduate PLUS loan is largely based on credit history, which includes an examination of on-time payments to creditors (ex. cell phone bills, credit cards, utilities, etc.) A federal Graduate PLUS borrower may not have an adverse credit history. A credit check is completed upon application for this loan. Borrowers with an adverse credit history may apply for the loan with a co-signer (also called endorser) who does not have an adverse credit history.
Federal Perkins Loan
The Federal Perkins Loan is a low-interest loan offered to qualifying students with exceptional financial need. The loan is interest free while the student is enrolled in school at least half-time. The program is administered by the Northwestern University Student Loan Office and loans are repaid to Northwestern University. Due to limited funding, priority for Perkins loans is given to students who complete their financial aid application process on time.
Private educational loans are available from private lenders for students whose cost of attendance has not been met through other federal loans or if a student is not eligible for federal student loans. The terms and conditions for private educational loans may vary.
Private educational loans differ from federal loan programs in several important ways. These loans are also based on the credit worthiness of the borrower. Interest rates, fees, and other provisions are subject to change by the lender, including repayment options and length of repayment. Students are advised to compare and research the private educational loan programs listed below before choosing a specific loan program. Please refer to the Student Financial Services site for further information outlining lending options.
It is essential that students maintain a strong and clean credit record. All students should review their credit report prior to and during law school to see if there are any problems or errors that need to be addressed. Private lenders view past and current delinquencies by potential borrowers as credit risks and may be reluctant to approve student loan requests. Students are strongly encouraged to review their credit report at least six months prior to the start of the academic year. All credit decisions are made by the lender and do not involve the Law School. Northwestern Law is unable to make up student funding shortfalls caused by private loan rejection.
Creditworthy third year JD and LLM students are eligible for bar study loans either with federal loans or with private educational loans.
FEDERAL LOANS; Certain fees related to bar study are allowed to be added to a 3L student’s cost of attendance. Students that are eligible for federal loans can receive additional funds in federal loans, most likely Federal Graduate PLUS loans, to offset these fees. Please note that the fees pertain only to the cost of the IL bar exam. Should you have bar examination fees in another state that exceed this amount, you will need to contact the Financial Aid Office to discuss your options. Federal regulations only allow the university to cover the cost of one state exam and so, if you will be taking the bar exam in more than one state, your request can be for the exam with the highest cost. Additional fees for late registration cannot be included in the request. Federal regulations also allow the university to increase your cost of attendance for fees relating only to the registration and administration of the bar exam, not for any bar preparation classes. For details on the amount available, please review the Emails For Current Students for the most up-to-date information.
PRIVATE EDUCATIONAL LOANS: These are private educational loans that can be used to help graduating students cover the costs of their bar preparation courses and bar exam expenses. Various lenders have bar loan options with varying amount of borrowing limits, generally up to $15,000. Please note that the bar study loan is not part of a financial aid package, meaning that this loan will not appear on CAESAR. These loans will be sent via paper check to the borrower directly, not the School. Many of these lenders have an online application; however, you should speak the Admissions Office if you are considering a bar loan or have applied for a bar loan.
Individuals that are not creditworthy can qualify with a creditworthy co-signer. International students might also be more limited in their lender choice since some lenders will not allow international students participate in their bar study loan program.
Other Loan Programs
Short-Term Emergency Loan
The Office of Financial Aid administers the short-term loan program, which is intended to assist students with unexpected financial emergencies that arise during the academic year. Students are entitled to one emergency loan of up to $500, regardless of their account status with the University. A student is eligible to receive a second emergency loan of no more than $500 during the school year ONLY if the following four conditions are met:
- The first emergency loan is repaid in full
- Your tuition account has a zero balance
- You are enrolled at least half-time and your academic term is still in session
- Your academic year consists of at least two terms
Emergency loans must be repaid within 60 days of receiving the funds or by the end of the semester, whichever comes first.
For more information, contact the Office of Financial Aid, Chicago, by calling (312) 503-8722 or visit our office in Abbott Hall, Room 629.
W.Willard Wirtz Loan Fund
Northwestern Law alum Mark C. Curran (JD '50) established the W. Willard Wirtz Loan Fund in 1987 to provide zero-interest loans to qualifying students in JD programs who encounter unforeseen financial emergencies during the periods of the calendar year not covered by other financial aid. The fund is administered through the Northwestern University Student Loan Office and is also available to graduates who may experience financial difficulties during the time between graduation and the start of employment.
Students can borrow up to $4,000 a year through the Wirtz Fund. Loan applications are available through the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid. Students are required to sign and return promissory notes to the Student Loan Office before loan funds can be disbursed.