Law school is hardly a cheap undertaking. But when it comes to choosing a school, rankings are often more important than the actual costs of the J.D. degree.
A new Kaplan survey of over 600 pre-law students finds that a law school’s ranking continues to factor significantly into their decision where to enroll – in many cases, even more than financial aid and ability to pay.
NEARLY 40% WOULD PREFER ACCEPTANCE TO A TOP-TIER SCHOOL WITH NO SCHOLARSHIP MONEY
When asked which law school admissions scenario they’d prefer to be in, Kaplan found the following:
- Mid-Tier School, Some Aid: A plurality (46%) of those surveyed said they’d rather be accepted by a mid-tier law school, where they’d receive a half-scholarship.
- Top-Tier Law School, Zero Aid: 39% said they’d prefer to be accepted by a top tier law school, where’d they’d receive no financial aid at all.
- Lower-Tier Law School, Full Aid: Just 16% said they’d prefer to be accepted by a lower ranked law school and receive a full ride scholarship.
According to American Bar Association data, in 2013, average tuition at a public law school was $23,879 per year for in-state residents and $36,859 per year for non-state residents. The average tuition at private law schools was significantly more, at $41,984 per year. While average tuition spiked over 2012, it’s notable that the percentage increases for both public and private law schools were at their lowest rates in 30 years.
LAW SCHOOL RANKINGS SEEN AS PART OF AN OVERALL FINANCIAL EQUATION
Kaplan says that law school applicants increasingly see rankings as part of the overall financial equation when investing in a law degree, as it can impact their earnings and career potential. Statistics show that generally the higher a law school is ranked, the higher a graduate’s starting salary and career opportunities are.
“In fact, there’s a huge earnings gap between lawyers who graduated from top tier law schools and lawyers who graduated from law schools that are considered lower tier,” said Jeff Thomas, executive director of pre-law programs, Kaplan, in a statement. “By saying they’d choose a top-tier law school where they may have to pay more instead of opting for a free ride with a lower-tier school, pre-law students are making a calculated investment in longer term gain. We continue to tell pre-law students that rank and cost are but two of several important factors they should consider when deciding where to apply and enroll. Applicants should seek out programs that are the best overall ‘fit’ for their academic, professional, financial, and lifestyle goals and needs.”
The Kaplen survey included responses from 637 pre-law students who took a Kaplan LSAT course and sat for the June 2014 administration of the LSAT.