Here’s a hypothetical for you.
What if you could attend a law school where your debt would be just a little more than $60,000 and more than 85% of your peers landed full-time, bar passage-required jobs? Would you go? What if the school was in Lincoln, Nebraska?
This past week, The National Jurist released its annual rankings for Best Value Law Schools, and the University of Nebraska College of Law topped the list. What’s more, five schools in the top 10 actually lowered average graduate debt while increasing job rates.
While rankings like the U.S News rely heavily on surveys of law school administrators and employers, The National Jurist looks at tuition, cost of living, debt, employment rates, and two-year bar passage rate of the school and state in which the school is located. Instead of Yale and Harvard topping the list, you have the University of Nebraska and Brigham Young University. Instead of six-figure debt amounts, you’ll see no average debt from the top 20 Best Value schools exceeding five figures.
According to Nebraska Law Dean Susan Poser, this has kept her schools like hers “little known and under-valued.” Outside of Brigham Young University, which ranks second, no private schools made the top 20. Georgia State University is ranked third, followed by the University of Kentucky and the University of Alabama.
Indeed, this might be the most helpful list if you are aiming to study law on a budget. Employment rates of the schools are weighted 35%, followed by tuition (25%), bar exam passage rates (15%), average indebtedness upon graduation and cost of living (10%). Of course, what is not included is out-of-state tuition. For those keen on moving to a state to attend law school, it will take a year (or so) of out-of-state tuition before getting the less expensive residential rate.
Another potential drawback is the lack of access to metropolitan areas, if that is an eventual goal. Many of these universities exist in smaller college towns. Conveniently, The National Jurist also created a list for the Best Value Law Schools located in 12 of the largest metropolitan areas. Georgia State University topped the list as it is located in Atlanta. Boston College came in second and Chicago-Kent College of Law was third.
Once again, this list points to the idea that if your ultimate goal is to practice law in your home state, choosing a public institution is likely your best bet to gain a job and graduate with minimum debt. And schools in the middle of the country, which were less affected by the Great Recession and economic downturn for Big Law, are a tremendous option for those aiming to study law on a budget.
Source: The National Jurist
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