The Leaders In Student Debt

by Jeff Schmitt on


Which Law Schools Lead in Student Debt?



That was the average median debt for law school graduates in 2012, according to newly-released numbers by the New America Foundation’s Education Policy Program. And if those numbers make your stomach churn, then you won’t want to read this next statistic: Law school student debt was $88,634 in 2004, a 37% increase over an eight-year span. And that’s adjusted for inflation.

Of course, those are median numbers. Some graduates incur more debt and others incur less. A few lucky souls even manage to leave school without debt. So which law schools generate the most debt? And which result in the least?

As part of its 2015 law school rankings, U.S. News and World Report includes a listing of student debt (and percentage of students in debt). Want to see the best and worst values among law schools? Check out this chart, which features the schools with the 25 highest student debts:

School NameAverage Indebtedness of 2013 Graduates Who Incurred Law School DebtPercent of Grads with Debt
Thomas Jefferson School of Law$180,66592%
New York Law School$164,73984%
American University (Washington)$158,63688%
California Western School of Law$157,74890%
Northwestern University$155,77778%
Whittier College$154,26792%
University of Chicago$153,75385%
Florida Coastal School of Law$150,36091%
St. Thomas University$150,16691%
University of Miami$148,51379%
New York University$147,68580%
University of Southern California (Gould)$147,39580%
University of San Francisco$146,91989%
Charleston School of Law$146,76589%
Pepperdine University$145,89380%
Georgetown University$145,63181%
The Catholic University of America$144,80186%
Golden Gate University$144,26996%
University of the Pacific (McGeorge)$142,78491%
Fordham University$142,43572%
Loyola Marymount University$141,76582%
Columbia University$141,56675%
University of California—​Berkeley$141,35882%
Vermont Law School$139,00087%
Stetson University$136,73887%


Source: U.S. News and World Report

Looking for the worst value? That would be the Thomas Jefferson School of Law School in San Diego. Unranked, this school’s average debt is over $180,000, with only 8.1% of students employed at graduation and only earning, on average, between $56,000-$58,000 to start. No. 140 New York Law School (not to be confused with NYU) isn’t much better, with student debt averaging $164,739. And life isn’t easy at unranked Golden Gate University, where 96% of graduates are in debt to the tune of $144,629 – with the interest only accruing.

Not surprisingly, many of the top-ranked universities, such as Northwestern, the University of ChicagoGeorgetown, New York University, and the University of California-Berkeley are also among the top schools for debt. However, their graduates – at least those starting in the private sector – are generally earning $160,000 to start, with a placement rate north of 85%. As a result, it is much easier for these students to pay back their loans.

Of course, some students manage to graduate from highly ranked schools with less debt than second and third tier schools. Here are the debt loads for many of the top law schools:

School NameAverage Indebtedness of 2013 Graduates Who Incurred Law School DebtPercent of Grads with Debt
University of Virginia$132,60182%
University of Pennsylvania$130,85575%
Southern Methodist University (Dedman)$128,38163%
Duke University$124,54960%
George Washington University$123,69376%
Harvard University$123,67379%
Washington and Lee University$120,64283%
University of California (Hastings)$119,03888%
George Mason University$118,79185%
University of Michigan—​Ann Arbor$117,67579%
University of Colorado—​Boulder$115,86677%
University of California—​Los Angeles$114,96384%
University of Maryland (Carey)$114,90970%
Vanderbilt University$114,41172%
Emory University$113,65690%
Yale University$111,96180%
Boston University$110,30978%
Washington University in St. Louis$109,97875%
Stanford University$108,39184%
Indiana University—​Bloomington (Maurer)$107,94787%
Arizona State University (O’Connor)$107,80975%
University of California—​Davis$103,60575%
University of Washington$100,86779%
University of Iowa$99,82785%
University of Notre Dame$99,09081%
University of Minnesota—​Twin Cities$98,41090%
Ohio State University (Moritz)$97,62487%
University of North Carolina—​Chapel Hill$92,72681%
University of Texas—​Austin$92,18071%
University of Wisconsin—​Madison$84,67977%
University of Florida (Levin)$81,47981%
University of Georgia$81,37079%
Florida State University$79,42690%
University of Alabama$71,09869%
Brigham Young University (Clark)$56,05384%


Source: U.S. News and World Report

Despite being the reigning #1 school for over two decades, Yale is technically a bargain, with graduates only leaving with $111,961 in debt. The lowest debt among top 50 schools belongs to Brigham Young, where students incur just $56,053 in debt, which is a hair more than what it costs to attend Northwestern… for one year. And rising Alabama is another school to watch. Not only is average debt only a shade over $70,000, but it has a placement rate of 86%, higher than many of the top 20 schools ranked above it. And 31% of Alabama students leave the law school without any debt!

To review a complete listing of law school debt, click on the link below.  

Source: U.S. News and World Report

1 2 3 4 5 Next

Partner Sites: C-Change Media | Poets & Quants | Poets & Quants for Execs | Poets & Quants for Undergrads