Loans are the principal source of aid available to law students to fund their legal education. Loans with the most favorable terms are always made available first to offset student financial need. The vast majority of educational loans are provided by the federal government, but students have the option of determining whether a private loan may make more sense to them financially.
Federal student loans are available to most students regardless of income and provide a range of repayment options including income-based repayment plans and loan forgiveness benefits, which other education loans are not required to provide.
Please note that only students eligible for federal student aid (typically U.S. citizens and permanent residents) are eligible to receive federal student loans. If you are not eligible for federal or private educational loans, typically Berkeley Law nor the University of California, Berkeley will be able to provide you with an institutional loan. Students eligible for the California DREAM Act, see below for loan options.
To submit a general application for federal loans, the following are required:
- Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) – every year
- Master Promissory Note for the Unsubsidized Loan – first year at Berkeley Law only (with a few exceptions)
- Master Promissory Note for the Graduate PLUS Loan – first year at Berkeley Law only (with a few exceptions)
- Combined Entrance Counseling for both the Direct Unsubsidized and Graduate PLUS loans – first year at Berkeley Law only
To determine whether a private loan makes more sense for you financially and given your long term goals, visit our webpage on Private Educational loans.
For more information on the timeline for applying for financial aid, including loans, see our entering student checklist or continuing student checklist.
Please keep in mind:
- Federal Unsubsidized Loans and Graduate PLUS Loans take roughly two to three weeks to process after we receive your FAFSA.
- Graduate PLUS Loans require a credit check.
- Additional time may be required if your MPN or Entrance Counseling is delayed or incomplete.
- The campus stops processing loan applications about a couple of weeks before the end of the spring semester for that academic year.
Students applying for loans during the academic year must therefore plan to submit their applications one month before they need the disbursement and at least one month before the end of the spring semester for that academic year. It is your responsibility to abide by each loan’s individual timeline and to stay informed of any changes.
In order to receive your loans, you must apply for loans each year and accept the amount you wish to borrow in the Award Details page of your CalCentral account. Each year your accepted loans will be disbursed in two equal payments minus the loan origination fee; typically half for fall semester and half for spring semester. However if you require an alternative disbursement, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.
You have the right to cancel all or part of any disbursement of a Federal Direct Loan without being charged interest or other loan fees as long as the cancellation is processed within 120 days of your loan’s original disbursement date. Please note that if you cancel or reduce a loan that has already disbursed, a charge will be applied to your account within approximately 2 to 3 business days and will create a balance due. You are responsible for paying this balance so that Berkeley can return the funds to the lender.
To request a reduction (i.e. return) loan funds, please submit your request to the Berkeley Law Financial Aid Office via the Loan Modification Request Form and contact us if you have any questions.
If it has been more than 120 days since your loan disbursement date, you cannot cancel your loan. However, you can make a payment to your servicer. Locate the servicer’s contact information by logging into your federal student loan account at studentaid.gov.
As always, visit our FAQ for more information on accepting and modifying loans.
The table below provides interest rates for Direct Loans first disbursed on or after July 1, 2023, and before July 1, 2024. Origination fees are reflective of Direct Loans first disbursed on or after October 1, 2020, and before October 1, 2023.
Interest rates and origination fees for Federal Direct Loans are set annually
|Federal Direct Unsubsidized||Federal Direct Grad PLUS||Private Educational Loans||University Bar Study Loan||Private Bar Study Loans|
|Restrictions||FAFSA eligible||FAFSA eligible, subject to credit check||subject to credit check||Graduating 3Ls||Subject to credit check|
|Interest Rate||7.05% fixed, IR set annually in July||8.05.% fixed, IR set annually in the summer||varies||8.0% fixed||varies|
|Maximum Annual Loan Amount||$20,500||Cost of Attendance minus accepted aid||varies by lender, typically Cost of Attendance minus accepted aid||$5,500||varies by lender, typically $1-$15K|
|Grace Period||6 months||6 months||Usually 6-8 months||7 months||varies|
|Interest accrues while in school||Yes||Yes||varies||No||—|
|Eligible for federal Income Driven Repayment (IDR)||Yes||Yes||No||No||No|
|Eligible for PSLF||Yes||Yes||No||No||No|
|Eligible for LRAP (JD grads only)||Yes||Yes||No||No||No|
Visit studentaid.gov for the most up-to-date information regarding student loan interest rates and origination fees
A maximum of $20,500 per year is available. Interest accrues on the Direct Loans during periods of enrollment and continues through repayment, which begins six months following graduation or after a student’s enrollment status drops to less than half-time. Repayment can be made over a 10-25 year term, however, there is no early repayment penalty.
For more information about accepting loans, please visit our FAQ page.
Sample Grad PLUS Loan Offer
$85,000 Academic Year Cost of Attendance
-$10,000 Gift Aid
-$20,500 Direct Unsubsidized Loan
=$54,500 Grad PLUS Loan
Students who need to borrow funds beyond the Direct Unsubsidized loan limits will be able to choose between the federal Graduate PLUS Loan (“Grad PLUS”) and a private educational loan.
The Direct Grad PLUS being offered at UC Berkeley has a fixed interest rate and no annual or aggregate borrowing limits (other than cost of attendance less other financial aid received). While credit checks are required to be eligible for the Grad PLUS, the credit criteria are less strict than those associated with private student loans. Furthermore, if you do not meet the credit requirements for a Grad PLUS, you may still obtain the loan with an endorser who does meet the credit requirements.
Q: What is considered to be an adverse credit history?
A: For purposes of qualifying for a Direct PLUS Loan, you’re considered to have an adverse credit history if:
- you have one or more debts with a total combined outstanding balance greater than $2,085 that are 90 or more days delinquent as of the date of the credit report, or that have been placed in collection or charged off (written off) during the two years preceding the date of the credit report; or
- during the five years preceding the date of the credit report, you have been subject to a:
- default determination,
- discharge of debts in bankruptcy,
- tax lien,
- wage garnishment, or
- write-off of a federal student aid debt.
We encourage you to determine how much money you will need for the academic year and take out as little as possible to reduce your debt burden upon graduating. If you accept less than the maximum amount offered to you, you have until late April of the spring semester to accept additional amounts of the loan. We are available to assist you in determining the appropriate amount of loan to borrow.
For more information about accepting loans, please visit our FAQ page.
Beginning in 2020-21, students who qualify for filing a California Dream Act Application (CDAA) may be eligible for up to $4,000 per academic year through the DREAM Loan Program.
Although we encourage students to carefully weigh the benefits of federal education loans compared to private educational loans, we make both types of loans available to our students. To apply for a private educational loan, submit an application with the lender of your choice and notify our office of your pending application. You may use any lender, but we suggest that you compare their loan terms with those on the University of California’s Preferred Lender List. Maximum eligibility is based on the cost of attendance less gift-aid received. If you have questions about your eligibility for a private loan, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Private loan funds are disbursed electronically from lenders to the UC Berkeley campus and applied to a student’s billing account beginning in early August for the fall term and early January for the spring term. Application and processing times vary.
Disclaimer: The Financial Aid Office does not receive, and will not accept, inducements from lenders in exchange for inclusion in the Preferred Lender List, nor does Berkeley Law share in the profits from student loans. Click here for the University of California Code of Conduct in Regard to Preferred Lender Arrangements.
Click here for the Bar Study Loans Option Guide
Increase Federal Loans:
Add Direct Bar Exam Fees to Cost of Attendance
You may increase your loan eligibility to specifically cover direct bar exam fees. In order to request an increase, you must follow the Cost of Attendance Adjustment Request (COAAR) procedure. The COAAR process and deadline information is listed on our Cost of Attendance Adjustments page. Should your request be approved, you will receive an offer to accept additional loan eligibility via CalCentral. Once accepted and processed, the funds will be disbursed to you in the form of a refund (make sure to set up Direct Deposit on CalCentral or you will need to pick up a check in person). Deadline to submit any COAAR is typically April 1st each year.
University Bar Study Loans
These loans are intended to cover bar exam costs and living expenses while preparing for the examination. The application will be available on our Berkeley Law Forms page each spring. Check here intermittently for the form release date and deadline. This loan is not a federal student loan and therefore does not qualify for LRAP and cannot be consolidated with federal student loans. The University Bar Study Loan is not available to students who are blocked or have a university account that is past due.
Private Bar Study Loans
Private educational loans, also known as alternative loans, are loans made by a private bank or lending agency for educational purposes. International students may qualify if the loan is co-signed by a creditworthy US citizen or permanent resident. Most likely, a US co-signer and SSN will be required. Make sure that you have considered all of your federal loan options before considering a private loan.
The University of California Office of the President (UCOP) maintains a Preferred Lender List. Choose UC Berkeley and then search “Bar” on the Program Type menu.
There are two short-term loans available to help students through unexpected financial difficulties. These funds are available within a short period of time and are expected to be repaid accordingly.
- The UC Berkeley Emergency Loan is an interest-free loan that must be repaid within 60 days. There is a processing fee required to obtain the loan.
Students whose financial aid budgets do not reflect their actual costs may submit a Cost of Attendance Adjustment Request (COAAR) to increase the student budget for additional loan eligibility. Allowable costs include relocation expenses for the first year, greater-than-average rent and utilities, computer purchase for law school ($3,000 maximum and purchase can be no earlier than July), uninsured medical and dental expenses, and child care expenses. A list of allowable expenses can be found on the forms webpage. The Cost of Attendance Adjustment Request Form information is available on our Forms page after the start of the fall term and should be submitted to the Berkeley Law Financial Aid Office.
The State of California requires that you be told the following:
Students considering student loans need to be aware of the differences between federal student loans and private student loans:
- Federal student loans are required by law to provide a range of flexible repayment options including, but not limited to, income-based and income-contingent repayment plans, as well as loan forgiveness benefits that private lenders are not required to provide.
- Federal direct loans are available to most students regardless of income. Other qualification criteria do apply. For more information, please visit https://studentaid.gov/understand-aid/eligibility.
- Private student loan lenders can offer variable interest rates that can increase or decrease over time, depending on market conditions.
- The interest rate on a private loan may depend on the borrower’s and/or co-signer’s credit rating.
Some UC campuses offer students their own private (institutional) student loans. Students offered a UC institutional private student loan should know that: Private student loans have a range of interest rates and fees and students should determine the interest rate of, and any fees associated with, the private student loan included in their financial aid award package before accepting the loan. Students should contact the lender of the private student loan or their UC campus’ financial aid office if they have any questions about a private student loan.
- Interest rates on UC loans will be fixed, not variable
- UC loans can have a range of interest rates
- UC loans are not awarded based on the credit history of the borrower
- UC loans do not require a co-signer.