Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

AccessLex: What Do We Know About Law Student Indebtedness?

AccessLex, What Do We Know About Law Student Indebtedness?:

One of the most frequently asked data questions posed to AccessLex is “What is the average debt of a law school graduate?” Although it is a straightforward question, the answer is a bit nuanced and can vary depending on the data source.

When approached for law school debt figures or preparing the AccessLex Legal Education Data Deck, our team references the two main sources of information on law student indebtedness—the U.S. Department of Education’s National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS) and U.S. News & World Report (USNWR). ...

According to the most recent NPSAS data, law school students who graduated in 2015-16 and used loans to finance their education borrowed an average of $134,250 in undergraduate and graduate school debt. With interest, the average cumulative amount they owed at graduation was $142,870 (Figure 1). Borrowers made up roughly 72 percent of the 2015-16 law school graduate cohort (Figure 2).


Those who borrowed for their undergraduate education (48 percent of the cohort) averaged $23,420 in college loans and those who borrowed for law school (71 percent of the cohort) averaged $116,890 in graduate debt. These figures are estimated based on individual student-level data from a national sample of postsecondary students and graduates. In the past, NPSAS figures have been collected and reported every four years; moving forward, figures will be available in two-year increments.

On the other hand, USNWR annually reports figures on average law school debt at the law school level

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