The Cheapest Law Degree?

MoneyNew Research Shows Where Law School Is Cheapest


Looking to get a law degree in the cheapest way possible? On Monday (January 5), Professor Jerome Organ of the University of St. Thomas School of Law presented findings from his most recent research that would help students do just that. The overall findings and main takeaway is this: To get a law degree for as cheap as possible, get a good to great LSAT score, be open to a lower ranked school, and move to the Midwest.

The research combines tuition costs with enrollment and admissions trends from 1985 through 2011. Specifically, Organ examined tuition rates (pre-scholarship amounts) at all American Bar Association (ABA) accredited law schools in 2012. He found that schools in eight states cost, on average, $38,500 or more for one year of law school. Six of those states (Connecticut, New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont) are located in the Northeast. The remaining two were Illinois and California. In fact, none of the 18 ABA accredited schools from the Golden State charge less than $39,600 for one year of tuition.

Conversely, there were 15 states in which no law school charged more than $30,000. Out of those, ten states (Arkansas, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, North Dakota, New Mexico, West Virginia and Wyoming) have public law schools that charge less than $20,000.

Organ took ABA data on first-year student scholarship rates and LSAT scores to determine what students with different scores actually pay (calling it “net tuition”). Students who scored 165 or higher generally attended highly-ranked schools, but did not have the lowest net tuition. Students with scores of 150 or lower attended lower-ranked schools and paid the highest net tuition. Students who scored 155 or higher and went to lower-ranked schools actually had the lowest net tuition. In fact, students who scored 165 or higher and paid less than $10,000 had an average school rank of 52. At the same time, high LSAT scorers who paid $40,000 or more had an average school rank of seven.

Another key finding supports the concern that scholarship money for students with higher LSAT scores is being subsidized by tuition paid by students with lower LSAT scores. For example, the majority of students (30%) paid between $30,000 and $40,000, or near full-tuition. The lowest number of students (6%) paid less than $10,000. The results also revealed 53% of first-year students paid at least $30,000. Organ believes this points towards schools using tuition paid by those receiving minimal financial help to cover the cost of scholarships for others.

Source: National Law Journal