Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Average Cost of Law School for Entering 1L Class: $195,000

National Law Journal, Think Law School's Expensive? You Don't Know the Half of It, by Karen Sloan:

U.S. News & World Report caused a minor stir in March when it reported that graduates of ABA-accredited law schools leave with $100,433 in educational loan debt.

But that figure doesn't reflect the true cost of financing a law degree — a statistic that prospective law students ought to understand, according to Law School Transparency Executive Director Kyle McEntee.

As part of the comprehensive database of law school employment statistics it launched this week, the organization has projected the total cost of law school loans for students who will graduate in 2015 and 2016 — that is, the ones who will start law school this year or next. The former will owe an average of $195,265 and the latter will owe an average $200,595. "My jaw dropped when I ran the numbers," McEntee said. ...

The City University of New York School of Law features the lowest projected debt for the class of 2015, at $96,242. The University of California, Berkeley School of Law had the highest, at $273,667.

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Wow. I paid some $1500 at a top-tier school, class of 1981, and they gave me the Affirmative Action Hispanic scholarship to boot, even though I'm really Irish-English, born in Paraguay.

Posted by: Jimbino | May 3, 2012 9:06:20 AM

"Over a 40-year career, that means you're expecting your JD to yield about $5K in earning power a year." This kind of math is why law students get into deep financial trouble.
--The $5K per year in loan payments is *after* taxes. If you're making enough money to feel this is a negligible burden, you'll probably have to earn $8K-$10K/year to cover loan payments.
--Check an amortization table to see how much you'll pay in total interest on a $200K loan. It's a big, big number. Notice also that interest will bump up your actual monthly loan payments by a hefty amount, which affects how much more you'll need in pre-tax income to break even.
--You won't be paying off your loan over a 40-year career, except in theory. Your payments will mostly hit in your early years, when your income and job stability are at their lowest point. And the fact that you have to make these payments (no bankruptcy option, remember?) will severely impact your career options.

Posted by: jt | May 3, 2012 5:22:14 AM

The ten least expensive law schools are lots less expensive. And, some are OK. Like everything else, never buy anything without knowing the exact price.

Posted by: Keating Willcox | May 2, 2012 10:10:05 PM

And to think that in about ten years people will be getting all the coursework free on line and getting certificates for about five grand.

Posted by: teapartydoc | May 2, 2012 7:18:23 PM

This is all self-correcting, just as with any marketplace abuse. The number of law students will drop. Law schools will close. Excess professors will be thrown out of work. Some law schools will compete largely on price, and will succeed compared to overpriced schools that don't offer something special in the way of training or credentials. The nation will not suffer from a shortage of lawyers. The nation will benefit, and so will students, by the absence of a glut. "It is not bad, it is high time...."

Posted by: Old lawyer | May 2, 2012 7:15:18 PM

I'm not a lawyer, never had any intention of being a lawyer, neither my husband or children have any interest in secular law whatsoever.

But all I can say is, "Holy $#@&*)% @*^%."

Posted by: werewife | May 2, 2012 6:42:14 PM

Yikes. My total cost of law school at the University of Denver in the 1970’s was $7,500. I thought it was outrageous at the time. [That was for tuition and books only, no room and board.] I thought $20 for a casebook was a crime. Now they’re $150, or so I’m told.

Posted by: TeeJaw | May 2, 2012 4:03:51 PM

Over a 40-year career, that means you're expecting your JD to yield about $5K in earning power a year. I know, there's interest and inflation and stuff. And there's the foregone opportunity of income for three years. But $200K doesn't strike me as "jawdropping." And it hardly seems fair to include all of one's living expenses as a cost of legal education when, in reality, if you were doing anything else those three years, you'd still need a house and food.

Posted by: anon | May 2, 2012 10:23:36 AM