What are the most affordable brick-and-mortar and online paralegal schools?
Students interested in paralegal training have many affordable options, from top online paralegal schools to community colleges to major state universities. Atlanta Technical College offers 1 of the most affordable online paralegal programs at just over $2,000 for full-time in-state tuition and less than $4,000 for out-of-state students. Tuition has actually decreased about 10% since the 2010-2011 school year.
U.S. News & World Report ranks East Central University in Oklahoma as the most affordable school with a campus-based paralegal program. In-state tuition is slightly less than $3,500, though out-of-state students will pay just over $10,000.
Grambling State University is another reasonably priced school, second in a search of the most affordable paralegal schools on U.S. News & World Report’s website, whose in-state tuition is only about $1,000 more than East Central University. Its out-of-state tuition is nearly the same.
Students seeking an inexpensive option in technical or community colleges should keep in mind that if they wish to obtain an advanced degree, they will need to transfer to a 4-year traditional or online paralegal school. However, a certificate or associates degree is a good stepping stone to starting your career as a paralegal.
How can I connect with other on-campus or online students who are also studying to become paralegals at my school?
Most schools have a paralegal student association or similarly named club. Frederick College’s Paralegal Students Association, for example, promotes the interests of paralegals and provides networking opportunities between students, paralegals and others in the legal field. Hartford Community College’s association features guest speakers and has sponsored trips to the U.S. Supreme Court and Maryland Court of Appeals. They also sponsor an annual law fair in the spring.
Students in traditional and online paralegal schools can join the National Association of Legal Assistants
Students in paralegal schools online will find networking opportunities through national associations as well as state or regional paralegal organizations. Within your own paralegal program, you should be able to interact with other students through your school’s message board or forum, by e-mail and even by telephone. Many programs also offer real-time chat as a way for students to interact with each other and their instructor, whether through video or an instant messaging service.
What resources should my brick-and-mortar or online school offer me when I am studying to become a paralegal?
The costs of many colleges keep rising, but most students in the best online paralegal schools, as well as their on-campus counterparts, are eligible for financial aid. Federal Pell Grants and loans such as the Direct Subsidized, District Unsubsidized and Parent PLUS Loans cover tuition and related expenses. Certificate and diploma programs are typically not eligible.
Students in both traditional and online schools for paralegal studies should also consider grants. Some schools offer grants specifically for paralegal students, so check with your financial aid office. This applies to scholarships, which many schools offer to those in paralegal studies. These scholarships and grants can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars.
A major component of your paralegal studies will be an internship. Your school’s paralegal studies department can usually help you find an internship, as they maintain a listing of local law firms and courts willing to partner with the school. Some schools allow you the opportunity to arrange your own internship, which may be more common for students in a paralegal school online.
The resources offered to on-campus students are almost always extended to those in online classes. If you are studying for an online paralegal degree, be sure to consult with your program director and your school’s financial aid office for availability.
Are there any nonprofit online paralegal schools or programs that I could look into?
Some of the best online schools for paralegal studies are connected with private, nonprofit institutions. On the other hand, programs offered through a for-profit paralegal online school are considerably weaker. Strong programs are often approved by the American Bar Association (ABA), and major law firms will look for this credential, but there are no accredited paralegal online schools as there is no accrediting body for paralegal studies.
Remington College is a nonprofit career-focused school that offers a paralegal online associates degree. You will learn to assist in drafting legal documents, prepare for trial and conduct legal research.
Liberty University offers both associates and bachelors degrees online in paralegal studies. It is among the largest nonprofit universities in the United States and the largest Christian university in the world.
Brandman University, formerly Chapman University College, offers a Bachelor of Arts in Legal Studies. This school, a part of the Chapman University System, was founded in 1958 with a focus on working adults.
All 3 schools are accredited through agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education but the ABA does not recognize fully online programs, as approval requires at least 10 credit hours of traditional classroom work. However, a lack of ABA approval will not necessarily prevent you from securing a job once you graduate, as many paralegals are offered positions through their internships.