The Leaders In Student Debt


Which Law Schools Lead in Student Debt?

That was the average median debt for law school graduates in 2012, according to newly-released numbers by the New America Foundation’s Education Policy Program. And if those numbers make your stomach churn, then you won’t want to read this next statistic: Law school student debt was $88,634 in 2004, a 37% increase over an eight-year span. And that’s adjusted for inflation.
Of course, those are median numbers. Some graduates incur more debt and others incur less. A few lucky souls even manage to leave school without debt. So which law schools generate the most debt? And which result in the least?
As part of its 2015 law school rankings, U.S. News and World Report includes a listing of student debt (and percentage of students in debt). Want to see the best and worst values among law schools? Check out this chart, which features the schools with the 25 highest student debts:

School Name Average Indebtedness of 2013 Graduates Who Incurred Law School Debt Percent of Grads with Debt
Thomas Jefferson School of Law $180,665 92%
New York Law School $164,739 84%
American University (Washington) $158,636 88%
California Western School of Law $157,748 90%
Northwestern University $155,777 78%
Whittier College $154,267 92%
University of Chicago $153,753 85%
Florida Coastal School of Law $150,360 91%
St. Thomas University $150,166 91%
University of Miami $148,513 79%
New York University $147,685 80%
University of Southern California (Gould) $147,395 80%
University of San Francisco $146,919 89%
Charleston School of Law $146,765 89%
Pepperdine University $145,893 80%
Georgetown University $145,631 81%
The Catholic University of America $144,801 86%
Golden Gate University $144,269 96%
University of the Pacific (McGeorge) $142,784 91%
Fordham University $142,435 72%
Loyola Marymount University $141,765 82%
Columbia University $141,566 75%
University of California—​Berkeley $141,358 82%
Vermont Law School $139,000 87%
Stetson University $136,738 87%

Source: U.S. News and World Report
Looking for the worst value? That would be the Thomas Jefferson School of Law School in San Diego. Unranked, this school’s average debt is over $180,000, with only 8.1% of students employed at graduation and only earning, on average, between $56,000-$58,000 to start. No. 140 New York Law School (not to be confused with NYU) isn’t much better, with student debt averaging $164,739. And life isn’t easy at unranked Golden Gate University, where 96% of graduates are in debt to the tune of $144,629 – with the interest only accruing.
Not surprisingly, many of the top-ranked universities, such as Northwestern, the University of ChicagoGeorgetown, New York University, and the University of California-Berkeley are also among the top schools for debt. However, their graduates – at least those starting in the private sector – are generally earning $160,000 to start, with a placement rate north of 85%. As a result, it is much easier for these students to pay back their loans.
Of course, some students manage to graduate from highly ranked schools with less debt than second and third tier schools. Here are the debt loads for many of the top law schools:

School Name Average Indebtedness of 2013 Graduates Who Incurred Law School Debt Percent of Grads with Debt
University of Virginia $132,601 82%
University of Pennsylvania $130,855 75%
Southern Methodist University (Dedman) $128,381 63%
Duke University $124,549 60%
George Washington University $123,693 76%
Harvard University $123,673 79%
Washington and Lee University $120,642 83%
University of California (Hastings) $119,038 88%
George Mason University $118,791 85%
University of Michigan—​Ann Arbor $117,675 79%
University of Colorado—​Boulder $115,866 77%
University of California—​Los Angeles $114,963 84%
University of Maryland (Carey) $114,909 70%
Vanderbilt University $114,411 72%
Emory University $113,656 90%
Yale University $111,961 80%
Boston University $110,309 78%
Washington University in St. Louis $109,978 75%
Stanford University $108,391 84%
Indiana University—​Bloomington (Maurer) $107,947 87%
Arizona State University (O’Connor) $107,809 75%
University of California—​Davis $103,605 75%
University of Washington $100,867 79%
University of Iowa $99,827 85%
University of Notre Dame $99,090 81%
University of Minnesota—​Twin Cities $98,410 90%
Ohio State University (Moritz) $97,624 87%
University of North Carolina—​Chapel Hill $92,726 81%
University of Texas—​Austin $92,180 71%
University of Wisconsin—​Madison $84,679 77%
University of Florida (Levin) $81,479 81%
University of Georgia $81,370 79%
Florida State University $79,426 90%
University of Alabama $71,098 69%
Brigham Young University (Clark) $56,053 84%

Source: U.S. News and World Report
Despite being the reigning #1 school for over two decades, Yale is technically a bargain, with graduates only leaving with $111,961 in debt. The lowest debt among top 50 schools belongs to Brigham Young, where students incur just $56,053 in debt, which is a hair more than what it costs to attend Northwestern… for one year. And rising Alabama is another school to watch. Not only is average debt only a shade over $70,000, but it has a placement rate of 86%, higher than many of the top 20 schools ranked above it. And 31% of Alabama students leave the law school without any debt!
To review a complete listing of law school debt, click on the link below.  
Source: U.S. News and World Report

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