The Most Generous Law Schools – And The Stingiest

by Jeff Schmitt on

(Editor’s Note: All numbers except rank are percentages)

Duke (83.8%), Michigan (77%) and the University of Chicago (75%) reported the highest proportion of students receiving grant money. However, such numbers only reflect one piece of the puzzle. At Duke, for example, seven out of eight students who won grants received them for less than 50% of tuition. And that ratio is even worse at Michigan. At Chicago, however, nearly 10% of students were given full rides (with New York University coming in second at 7.2%).

Bottom line: schools allots their resources differently. Stanford, U.C. Berkeley, and Northwestern, for example, allocate grant money more heavily in the 50% to 99% of tuition range (21.5%, 18.4% and 17% respectively). As alluded to earlier, the philosophy of Duke and Michigan is to cast a wider net. As a result, more students receive assistance, but few receive 50% or more of tuition. Don’t forget: such assistance is tied to academic performance (i.e. class rank), so it isn’t necessarily guaranteed for the three years.


If your heart is set on Georgetown, expect some pushback. It is among the stingiest schools when it comes to aid. Just 0.1% of its first-year students – roughly six students – were offered a full ride for 2014. And just 40% received any aid at all. Columbia, Chicago, and Cornell tendered the lowest median grants ($15,000). Conversely, Northwestern (0.6%), Columbia (1.1%) and Harvard (1.2%) conferred the fewest full-tuition-or-more grants.

Vanderbilt Law School

Vanderbilt Law School

Looking for the best deals among Top 25 programs? Start with Vanderbilt and the University of Iowa. At Vanderbilt, a whopping 96.4% of students are part of the grant program – among the highest in the nation. Although two-thirds of first-years are given less than 50% of tuition, the median grant is still a respectable $20,000 (with the average between $15,000 to $20,000). In Iowa City, 31.2% of its first-years have their full tuition paid (which is $41,296 for out-of-state residents). That’s the highest percentage among U.S. News’ Top 50 law schools. In fact, Iowa is truly a diamond-in-the-rough: a Top 25 school where 82.7% of students are receiving grants with a median of $23,453. And the school’s cost of living — $16,600 – is the fourth-lowest among Top 50 programs. The school, which has already slashed tuition and expanded its 3+3 program in recent years, can truly be called student friendly.

Washington University, based in St. Louis, Missouri, is another good bet if you want to go after a better aid package. Ranked 18th overall, median grants come in around $26,000, with 70.5% of first-years receiving aid (including 11.7% getting a full ride). The same is true at the University of Minnesota, with 86.3% of first years averaging $20,000 medians (including 13.4% enjoying full tuition or more). And 15.4% of Alabama entrants earn a full ride as well.

As a state, Texas is known for low tax and low service. And its flagship law program follows a similar philosophy. Although 84.8% of first-years are awarded grants, the median is $9,700, the lowest among Top 25 law schools. George Washington, like nearby Georgetown, also skimps on grants. Its median average is $16,000, with only 3.9% of grants covering full tuition there. In other words, you’re negotiating for dimes over dollars there. If you’re bent on getting your tuition covered, avoid Emory and the University of Southern California. Barely 1% of their students have their tuition covered – though median aid at Emory ($26,000) and USC ($24,100) rank in the Top 25’s upper echelon.


Think you have a better shot at scoring big money grants below the Top 25 schools? Not necessarily. Among these programs, eight schools maintain median grants of $20,000 or more, compared to 13 in the Top 25. These schools are headed by the University of California-Davis ($25,000), Indiana University ($24,936), California-Irvine ($23,654), and Southern Methodist ($23,000).

Indiana University Maurer School of Law

Indiana University Maurer School of Law

In fact, your odds for grants don’t much improve at this tier, either. Among schools ranked 26th to 50th, there are 12 where 75% or more of first-years receive grant money. That number is 11 among programs ranked 1st to 25th. However, if you enroll at the University of Illinois, you are certain to get a grant, with 100% receiving assistance (at a respectable $18,550 mean). At Indiana University (Maurer), 99% receive grants (with 24.9% having their whole tuition paid, no less). You’ll also find heavy assistance for first years at Ohio State (96.1%), the University of North Carolina (94.5%), and California-Irvine (92.9%).

If you thought Top 25 programs were penny-pinchers when it came to full rides, the rest aren’t much better. Just 10 of the 25 schools ranked from 26th to 50th give 2% or more of their first-years grant money covering full tuition or more. In fact, the University Of Illinois, William & Mary, and Tulane offer no full grants (and Maryland and Fordham come in at 0.2% and 0.4% respectively). However, the University of Arizona (12.5%) and Brigham Young (12.4%) are more generous in this regard.

If you are open to paying less than half of your tuition, a program ranked 26th to 50th is a good bet. In this tier, there are eight schools where 30% or more of their students pay less than 50% of their tuition. Among the Top 25 law schools, just one program – Washington University – does that. That said, there are 12 schools among the 26th to 50th where the median grant is $10,000 or less. Compare that to the Top 25, where only one school – Texas – fits that profile.


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