Law School Tuition Inching Toward $100K

At many top institutions, law school tuition is slowing reaching the $100,000 a year mark.

Above The Law reports that tuition at top law schools currently exceeds $50,000 per year. At Harvard, the total cost for one year is $92,450. At Columbia, it’s $93,740. Stanford is priced at $92,622.

Such high prices have emerged as a major concern, especially when looking at how much recent law grads tend to make. According to a U.S. News & World Report report, the median private sector salary for 2015 grads was $68,300. The median public sector salary was $52,000. At the same time, the number of recent grads who are employed as a lawyer is down 10% since its peak of the last decade, The New York Times reports.

 

Median Starting Salaries for Private vs. Public Sectors. (Source: U.S. News)

 

That’s not the worst of it. When looking at how much law school tuition has increased over time, it’s important to take into consideration inflation effects. Law School Transparency reports that legal education inflation far exceeds the inflation rate.

According to their study, the average private school tuition in 1985 was $7,526. Today, that would translate to $16,790. But the actual cost of today’s average tuition is $45,099. Take a look below to see how costs have increased over time with inflation taken into effect.

Public and private law school price increases far exceed inflation. Source: Law School Transparency

So, what does that mean? Well, for one, it means law school prices are increasing faster than the rate of inflation. As Law School Transparency states, it now costs 2.7 times more money to attend a private law school when compared to 1985, even after adjusting for inflation. At public schools, in-state residents can expect to pay 5.8 times the price they would have paid in 1985.

Federal Government Loans are Both Helping and Hurting Students

Federal subsidized loans essentially lend money to anyone who wants to attend law school, with disregard to whether or not that law school will get them a job. In a Washington Post piece, David Lat – the founder and managing editor of Above the Law – says that federal subsidized loans have allowed law school tuition to “spiral out of control.”

In his article, Lat cites the words of Professor Brian Tamanaha, a professor of law at St. John’s University School of Law, to emphasize how federal loans have enabled law school tuitions to spike.

“Federal loans are an irresistible (and life-sustaining) drug for revenue addicted law schools,” Tamanaha writes. “Law schools have been ramping up tuition and enrollment without restraint thanks to an obliging federal loan program.”

Lat explains how, at this point, the government is the only entity that can fix rising costs of law school tuition.

“If the government were to stop lending for law school or even just impose per-student or per-school caps on loan amounts (perhaps combined with making it easier to discharge student loans in bankruptcy), law schools would have to dramatically lower tuition, in order to attract students,” Lat writes.

Sources: Above The Law, US News, Law School Transparency, The New York Times, The Washington Post