Stanford Law scraps all tuition for low-income students, joining Yale

Stanford Law School this week became the second elite U.S. law school to commit to fully eliminating tuition payments for low-income students.

In an email Wednesday to students, Dean Jenny Martinez announced a series of new financial aid measures, including full-tuition scholarships for current and incoming students whose family income is below 150% of the poverty line. That works out to $41,625 for a family of four, or $20,385 for an individual.

The school will cover tuition payments for those who qualify starting next year. Annual tuition at Stanford Law is currently $64,350.

Yale Law School announced a similar program in February, with full-tuition scholarships for students with family incomes below the poverty line and whose assets are below $150,000. At the time, Yale Law Dean Heather Gerken said she hoped to spark a wider movement away from merit-based scholarships based on Law School Admission Test scores and undergraduate grades and toward need-based financial aid.

Martinez told students that Stanford Law’s financial aid improvements are a byproduct of the school’s effort to improve diversity, equity and inclusion at the school and the work of a special committee focused on financial access. Altogether, the school expects to spend an additional $3.1 million annually on the financial aid improvements, which is being generated through fundraising, the larger university, and resource reallocation, she wrote.

A law school spokeswoman said the school doesn’t yet have an estimate of how many students will qualify for the new full-tuition scholarships because it is still finalizing its incoming class. Yale Law, which is similar in size to Stanford, predicted its program would cover 45 to 50 students a year.

In addition to the scholarships tied to family income, Stanford will provide a $3,000 supplement for travel and relocation costs for first-year students receiving need-based scholarships. It will also fully fund a minimum of 12 post-graduate public interest fellowships.

The school also unveiled changes to its Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP), which helps graduates in lower-paying public interest jobs repay their students loans. Beginning next year, it will cover all student loan payments for graduates in qualifying jobs making less than an annual $75,000, up from the previous threshold of $50,000. Graduates who earn more than $75,000 will make student loans payments on a sliding scale, with higher earners contributing more.

Finally, Stanford Law is increasing the funding students receive to take public interest legal positions over the summer from $7,000 to $7,500 for first-year students, and $8,000 to $8,500 for returning students. It’s also increasing hourly pay for law students hired as legal assistants from $18 to $20.

“Improving and enhancing financial aid support for our students has been one of my top priorities since becoming dean of the law school,” Martinez wrote in her message to students.