How Need-Based Aid Works

How We Determine Your Financial Aid

We believe that administering our financial aid based on need alone is critical to ensuring that all students who are admitted to Yale will have the ability to enroll regardless of any financial limitations they may have at the outset. Need-based aid allows us to direct our institutional resources to the students who truly require and will benefit most from them, and it helps maintain socio-economic diversity at the Law School. By applying the same pre-set principles to all students, we are able to bring transparency and consistency to our financial aid process. These concepts of equity, fairness, and universal access – which underlie need-based aid – reflect the values of the Yale Law School community. We deliver aid through a process that meets the criteria of federal regulations and institutional policies while serving the needs of students in a fair and equitable manner. Please refer to the 2023-2024 JD Financial Aid Handbook or 2024-2025 JD Financial Aid Handbook for more details.

As stated in our 2023-2024 Financial Aid Handbook and 2024-2025 JD Financial Aid Handbook, we expect students to provide the Financial Aid Office with accurate information about their financial situation and notify us of any significant changes whenever they occur; meet the deadlines and submit all requirements and reporting responsibilities promptly and carefully; and, if requested submit additional documentation for the purposes of reconciling discrepancies, providing clarification of application data, or if selected for federal or institutional verification purposes. In addition, federal regulations require that the University report any information that indicates that an applicant may have engaged in fraud or other criminal misconduct in connection with his or her federal loan application. The information will be reported to the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Education or other law enforcement officials. Please note: For non-U.S. Citizens, the information on the Student visa form and the financial aid application must correspond. If the information varies, it must be corrected or it will be reported to the Office of International Students and Scholars.

Example of Award Packaging Parameters

YLS determines financial need and offers aid to meet that need based on the following two-part calculation:

Cost of Attendance1(i.e. Budget)
minus contribution (student + parent+ spouse)2
= student's amount of financial need

Need is then filled with a set amount of unit loan funds and then by a Yale Law School Institutional Scholarship

Student's amount of financial need
minus unit loans3 (based on class year)
= YLS Institutional scholarships award

1 Includes tuition, fees, health insurance, and an allotment for living expenses
2 Combination of student assets, income, and, if applicable, spouse and parent resources
3 Unit loan amounts are established annually and vary by class year

Award Packaging Parameters

Academic year financial aid consists of need-based grants and loans. The primary goal of our financial aid program is to ensure that all admitted students can afford to attend Yale Law School regardless of their financial resources. We determine the financial aid offers based on a budget of tuition and fees plus allowances for living expenses, books, and travel.

The process of applying for financial aid differs for both new admit students and continuing students, as well as for those students only seeking loan support versus those seeking a full financial aid package of both loans and scholarships.

Financial Aid Support

Using a combination of loans and grants/scholarships, we make every effort to provide students with the difference between their resources (such as family resources, summer earnings, and student savings) and the cost of attending Yale Law School.

For the 2022-2023 academic year, 74% of our J.D. student body received some form of financial aid, and 64% qualified for Law School institutional scholarships. For students on scholarship the median amount is approximately $32,878, and 81% receive aproximately $20,000 or more. In total, Yale Law School disbursed $13 million in institutional support to its J.D. candidates.

A Breakdown of Aid & Contribution Calculations

Students are expected to help meet the cost of their education through savings and employment.

Student Assets

Students are expected to exhaust their savings and other financial assets (determined at the beginning of Law School) by contributing one-half in their first year and the remaining half in their second year. Students must conserve the assets anticipated for use in the second year; the Law School’s second year financial aid calculation will assume that these assets are available. This schedule of expenditure (as opposed to one requiring all assets to be consumed before any grant aid is offered) is designed to lessen the financial impact of withdrawal from the Law School after the first year. It is also designed to back-load loans and thus reduce the interest that accrues. Additional assets acquired during Law School are considered to be fully available to meet Law School expenses.

Summer Employment

The determination of the expected summer contribution for continuing students is based on the following steps:

  1. The calculation of gross earnings is based on the weekly rate of pay for students’ full-time job(s) applied to the number of weeks worked.
    1. For students who split employment between more than one full-time employer, gross earnings will be derived by calculating a weighted average weekly income for all full-time weeks worked. This average income will be applied to the actual number of weeks worked.
    2. For students who split employment between a full-time compensated position and a full-time unpaid internship, gross earnings will be derived by reducing gross income by the standard weekly living allowance for weeks working at the unpaid position.
  2. Next, we calculate a tax deduction for federal, state, and FICA taxes. For the state tax rate, we use either the tax rate of the state in which the student worked or Connecticut’s income tax rate (5% in 2022), whichever is greater. This tax deduction is subtracted from gross earnings.
    1. For students who work in multiple states, we will base the state portion of the tax calculation on the state with the higher tax rate
  3. Next, we deduct $8,000 for summer living expenses.  
  4. Next, we deduct a savings component (after taking into account the deductions above), which will be retained by students and thereby decrease the student contribution:
    1. For weeks 1-10 we will deduct 15%; and
    2. For weeks 11 and greater we will deduct 75%.
  5. The remaining income will be the student’s summer income contribution. In most cases, the summer income contribution is not paid to the law school, rather it is retained by the student to pay for part of the cost of living during the academic year.

Because the tax rate is normally based on an annualized projection for each pay period, some employers will withhold more in federal taxes when employed at the company for a shorter period of time (i.e. summer only).  To avoid the higher tax deduction, we suggest you speak to your employer’s HR office about adjusting the federal tax withholding since you will only be employed there for a few weeks during the summer.  You can find more details about this procedure in the IRS Publication 15-A, page 24 (https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p15a.pdf).

Summer contributions of $2,500 are imputed to students in all classes who choose not to work during the summer. We expect that students entering the Law School will contribute the higher of a summer contribution calculated by the formula above or $2,500.

Continuing students interested in summer public interest and government employment should consider the Law School's programs of direct support for such work through Summer Public Interest Fellowships (SPIF). Students who participate in SPIF generally do not have a summer contribution as their SPIF grant is less than or equal to the $8,000 exclusion.

Term-time Employment

Term-time income in excess of $5,000 will be considered as an asset to meet financial need. Seventy percent of gross income minus $3,500  (shelter) will be applied first to replace any unmet summer contribution expectation, parental contribution that is not in fact available, or to meet expenses in excess of the basic budget. If no such shortfall exists or if the net income exceeds the shortfall, the income (or that portion in excess of the shortfall) will be used to reduce unit loan dollar-for-dollar. If term-time income is $5,000 or less, the student does not have to report the income to the Financial Aid Office.

  • For current 1Ls and 2Ls-adjustments for any term time employment completed during the current 2023-2024 academic year will be factored into your next academic year (2024-2025) aid award. Students will report their term-time income on the 2024-2025 FAAST application (Note: those students who opt not to complete FAAST (i.e. loan consideration only) will be asked to supply this information separately on an addendum to their Notification and Confirmation form. Students whose income exceeds the parameters outlined in the policy above will see a calculation for term time income on their 2024-2025 aid award letter in their student contribution (along with any existing assets and summer earnings contributions). As such, students should plan accordingly knowing that any income derived in 2023-2024 may affect their 2024-2025 aid award.
  • For 3Ls-students will receive an e-mail at the beginning of the Spring 2024 term requesting that they report term time employment for the current academic year 2023-2024. Based on this data, students will be informed if a term time adjustment of their aid is required. If so, 3L students will have the choice of 1) having funds adjusted directly off their student account or 2) having the adjustment made in the amount of COAP eligible loans they have incurred while enrolled. By offering two options, students who cannot afford to lose direct funds in their spring term have the option of the COAP adjustment.

For more detailed information and examples, review the FAQ links below

Summer Employment Policy FAQs

Term Time Employment Policy FAQs

For those students applying for grants, the Law School will take into account all resources available to meet the cost of their education, including, to some extent, family resources. (Please note: for students applying only for loans, parental resources are not considered) The Law School considers family resources on a sliding scale, based on the age of the student:

  • If the student is 26 or younger on December 31st of the academic year for which the student is applying for financial aid, a parental contribution (as described below) will be expected. Parents’ information must be submitted to FAAST and to the Law School.
  • If the student is 27 or 28 on December 31st of the academic year for which the student is applying for financial aid, the expected parental contribution will be decreased by 50%. Parents’ information must be submitted to FAAST and to the Law School.
  • If the student is 29 or older on December 31st of the academic year for which the student is applying for financial aid, no parental contribution will be expected. Parents’ information does not need to be submitted to FAAST or to the Law School.

Expected Parental Contribution Calculation

The expected parental contribution is calculated based on the information in the FAAST application. The FAAST methodology for measuring parents' relative financial position is based on the concept of "available income." Available income is defined as that income available to the family to meet its economic needs after deductions from the parents' total taxable and nontaxable income for the following: U.S. income and social security (FICA) taxes; state and other taxes; medical and dental expenses; employment allowance (if appropriate); elementary and secondary tuition expenses; and minimum living expenses.

The remaining income is considered available for the family's discretionary use, and a percentage of this available income is calculated as a reasonable contribution toward educational expenses. This calculation of available income also takes into account a number of factors like parental income, age, retirement needs, home equity, assets, family size, and whether both parents are working. As the amount of available income rises, the percentage considered available for education expenses also increases. This amount is then divided among family members enrolled in full-time higher education programs to determine the expected parental contribution.

Students who actually receive only part or none of the expected parental contributions may increase the amount that is being borrowed (generally through the GradPLUS loan) to make up the shortfall. These loans to support the parent contribution will be covered by COAP.

***Please Note: Students whose parents are divorced or separated must submit a FAAST application for both biological parents.

Spousal contributions are calculated based on the following parameters:

  • Spouse is full time enrolled student (including a fellow YLS student): no contribution assessed
  • Spouse is documented unemployed: no contribution assessed
  • Spouse is a stay-at-home parent due to childcare responsibilities: no contribution assessed (a $6,000 living allowance for spouse is also added to the Cost of Attendance in this circumstance)
  • Spouse is maintaining separate household: no contribution assessed
  • Spouse is gainfully employed: a contribution based on the gross income according to the schedule below:

Spousal Contribution Table

Gross IncomeSpouse Contribution
under $50,000None
$50,000 to $65,00015% of income
$65,000 to $80,000$9,750 plus 30% of income over $65,000
Over $80,000$14,250 plus 60% of income over $80,000

It is the student's responsibility to notify the Financial Aid Office of any changes to the spouse's employment status during the academic year at which time an aid award adjustment may be made. The Financial Aid Office will also request documentation to verify the spouse's status as unemployed, full time student or primary childcare provider.

Students may opt to borrow additional loan funds to compensate for the calculated spouse contribution up to their Cost-of-Attendance. However, any additional borrowing for this purpose will not be eligible for the COAP program.

The Law School expects all students to finance a portion of their education with loans. We strive to minimize and equalize our students’ debt load. We allocate our grant resources to students with the greatest financial need and use a formula which increases the proportion of grant as total need increases.

In 2023-2024, students are expected, depending on the class year, to meet the first $54,750 (1L) $55,810 (2L) or $56,870 (3L) of their need with loans.  Students whose total need is less than this amount will normally receive only loan assistance. Students whose need exceeds this amount will receive grants. Further need, which exceeds the basic budget, is usually met in the form of additional loans.

While law school debt may seem daunting, all YLS graduates are eligible to apply for the Law School’s post-graduate loan forgiveness program (COAP).

As the borrower, you have the ability to: 

  1. Choose what type of student loan you wish to borrow to fill your calculated unit loan contribution. Several types of loans are available and the most common types (which will be auto packaged on your aid award) are the Federal Direct Unsubsidized and GradPLUS loans (see loan details below). Since Yale University participates exclusively in the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan program there is only one lender, the Department of Education for these federal loans. There are also numerous private loans available and you are free to select the lender of your choice (indicating as such on your Notification and Confirmation form). We encourage students to carefully weigh the benefits of each loan program including interest rates, repayment plan flexibility, forgiveness terms, fees, etc. when making your loan selection, as these factors vary significantly between loan products.
  2. Decide how much or how little of the loan offer you wish to accept. You are not obligated to borrow the full loan amounts that are included in your aid award letter. Based on your personal needs, you can decline any portion or the entire loan offer. If you do decline, you retain the right to re-accept the loan offer at any point during the academic year. As such, we encourage you to think carefully about your own budget and the loan amounts you will actually need.


Types of Loans

Federal Direct Loans

Note: Based on the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act of 2013 federal student loans now have market term interest rates set specifically for each academic year. Once these rates are established they carry as a fixed rate for the life of the loan. These rates are based on the 10-year Treasury bill rate (as of June 1 annually) plus the following add-ons: Direct Unsubsidized Loan +3.6% and Direct Grad Plus Loan +4.6%.) The YLS Financial Aid Office will notify both newly admitted and current students of these interest rates annually in early June.

Federal Direct student loans include the Direct Unsubsidized loan and the Direct Grad PLUS loan:

Federal Direct Unsubsidized

  • Maximum: $20,500 per academic year and aggregate maximum of $138,500 per student for all Direct (and/or previously awarded Stafford loans) for entire (undergraduate and graduate) enrollment.
  • Application: apply for eligibility by completing the FAFSA.
  • Eligibility: no financial need test - however, Direct Unsubsidized loans may not exceed the difference between the Cost of Attendance and all other financial aid for the period of enrollment.
  • Interest Rate: Fixed rate of 7.05% (for academic year 2023-2024). Interest rate is established annually specific to academic year and then carries as a fixed rate for the life of the loan. Borrower is responsible for the interest that accrues while enrolled in school, either by making regular monthly or quarterly payments, or by capitalizing interest.
  • Fees: An origination fee will be deducted from each loan disbursement you receive and will be shown on the disclosure statement that will be sent to you. Presently this fee is set at 1.057% but may vary (based on the Budget Control Act of 2011).
  • Grace Period: Although the grace period and interest rate of any Stafford loan will remain in effect for those loans, any new disbursements will carry a six-month grace period.

Federal Direct Grad PLUS

  • Maximum: Credit worthy students may borrow up to the total Cost of Attendance (budget) minus any other financial aid per academic year.
  • Application - apply for eligibility by completing the FAFSA.
  • Eligibility: no financial need test - however, Direct Grad PLUS loans may not exceed the difference between the Cost of Attendance and all other financial aid for the period of enrollment.
  • Interest Rate: Fixed rate of 8.05% (for academic year 2023-2024). Interest rate is established annually specific to academic year and then carries as a fixed rate for the life of the loan. Borrower is responsible for the interest that accrues while enrolled in school, either by making regular monthly or quarterly payments, or by capitalizing interest.
  • Fees: An origination fee will be deducted from each loan disbursement you receive and will be shown on the disclosure statement that will be sent to you. Presently this fee is set at 4.228% but may vary (based on the Budget Control Act of 2011).
  • Grace Period: The Grad PLUS loan does not carry a grace period. However, students may request a "deferment" for up to six months post graduation to delay payment.

For Both Federal Unsubsidized Loan and Grad PLUS Loan

  • Deferments/Forbearance: After graduation, loan repayment can be deferred for a variety of reasons, including further study, unemployment and economic hardship. First-time borrowers will be subject to all terms and deferments that are in effect at the time their loans are disbursed. For borrowers who have any outstanding balance on a prior loan(s), the deferments that are stipulated in their original promissory note(s) will pertain to any new disbursements as well.
  • Documentation to Establish Loan: Students must complete the required online Entrance Interview and Master Promissory Note(s) before Federal Direct loans will be disbursed. Instructions on these requirements will be sent from Student Financial Services via the Yale Hub .

Private Loans

You have the ability to consider a private loan to meet your unit loan obligation or if you need additional funding for educational expenses after you have exhausted potential scholarship, work study and federal loans. Private student loans are offered by private lenders, such as banks and credit unions. Unlike federal loans, which are guaranteed by the federal government, private student loan terms vary from lender to lender. It is important to ask questions when deciding to borrow a private loan so that you can compare the terms and choose the best one that fits your needs. Terms you may wish to assess include: interest rates (fixed vs. variable), lender fees, grace periods, deferment and forbearance options, as well as ease of access and customer service.

Please note: private loans are not eligible for federal loan forgiveness programs, although they are covered by Yale Law School’s COAP loan forgiveness program.

As with any student loan (federal or private), you are not required to take the full amount, please consider how much you will really need. You will then need to select a lender and apply for the loan. Instructions for how to do this can be found on the lenders’ websites. Once the loan has been approved by your lender, you will then need to complete the Notification and Confirmation Form which is available on the Forms section of the website. The Financial Aid Office will then need to "certify" your private loan (i.e. attesting both to your enrollment and to the fact that the loan will not exceed your need based Cost of Attendance awarded aid).

For additional information on private loan options, we encourage you to review Yale's alternative loan list.

Yale Loans

  • Yale Student Loans: Students whose loan needs exceed federal limits, who are not eligible for federal or supplemental loans or whose private loan need is less than $1,000, may apply for the Yale Student Loan (YSL) as a "loan of last resort". The interest rate is fixed by the University at 7.5% with a six-month grace period. YSL loans do not have origination or guaranty fees.
  • Yale Graduate and Professional International Loan (YGPI): The YGPI loan is available without a cosigner for international students attending Yale Law School. The YGPI has a fixed interest rate of 7.75%, a 5% origination fee, a 10-year repayment schedule and a 6-month grace period after graduation or enrollment of less than half time. The loan program also offers incentives such as no payments during graduate study, no prepayment penalties and the ability to pay ahead while in repayment.

Last Update: 5/19/2023

Yale Law School grants:

Grants provided from the Law School's institutional resources and through the generosity of our endowed scholarship funds are awarded solely on the basis of the institution need based aid calculation as outlined above.

The Law School does not give merit-based or criteria-based scholarships. The maximum possible grant is the amount of tuition (exceptions do apply). The same need based calculation applies to U.S. citizens, permanent residents and international students, who are reviewed for eligibility for institutional scholarships in the same manner.

Special or endowed scholarships, such as those listed in the Law School Bulletin, are awarded only to students with demonstrated financial need and do not increase the recipients awards. Questions to assess a student's eligibility for specific endowed scholarship criteria are included on FAAST and, as such, no separate application is necessary. If the student is notified that their institutional need-based scholarship was supported through one of our endowed funds, they will be asked to submit a resume and may be asked to write a thank you acknowledgment to the fund donor for stewardship purposes. Students may also have opportunities to meet or otherwise thank donors directly.

Grants are distributed by crediting 50% each term to the student's term bill account.

The Hurst Horizon Scholarship:

The Hurst Horizon Scholarship is a full-tuition scholarship for J.D. students with very significant financial need, specificially those from families whose income is up to 200% of the federal poverty guidelines and their family's assets are below $150K. The scholarship is awarded on an annual basis for the upcoming academic year and is disbursed in equal amounts at the beginning of each semester. Only J.D. students who are enrolled and in good standing are eligible for the Scholarship.

For students whose non-custodial parent was waived from the financial aid process due to extraordinary circumstances, the determination will be based on the custodial household only. For students whose parent(s) have both been waived from the process, we will use the student’s prior year income/household size to determine eligibility for the scholarship. For students whose parents are divorced/separated/never married, and we have both biological parents’ FAAST application, we will use a combined household income to determine eligibility. Students who are 29 or older will have to submit parental income, asset, and household information if they would like to be considered for the scholarship.

The Yellow Ribbon Program:

Yale Law School is a full participant in the Yellow Ribbon program, a supplemental scholarship designed to assist eligible veterans pay for college, graduate school, or professional school. Veterans who are 100% eligible for Post 9/11 GI Bill (Chapter 33), 100% of tuition and fees (including mandatory health fees) will be covered by a combination of Chapter 33 benefits, the federal Yellow Ribbon contribution, and a Yellow Ribbon matching contribution from Yale Law School. Eligibility can vary so individual veterans should consult with the Veterans Affairs to determine eligibility.

Scholarships and grants from outside sources:

Scholarships or grants from outside sources will be applied to the loan portion of a Yale Law School award dollar-for-dollar. Note - regardless of the size of the outside scholarship, you must notify the Financial Aid Office of the source and amount of the award as soon as possible.