Legal education costs more than $200,000, study finds

How much does it cost to go to law school? While average debt upon graduation now exceeds $100,000 and some schools are exceeding the $50,000 annual tuition mark, none of those figures add up the total cost.

But now Law School Transparency has done the math, adding three years of tuition to cost of living expenses, and then calculating finance expenses. The final tab for what it calls non-discounted cost is more than $200,000.

“We did the study to show how absurd the cost of attendance is and to make people really think about the debt they are taking on,” said Kyle McEntee, executive director of the non-profit organization. “It ends up being a lot more than people realize.”

Law School Transparency recently launched a comprehensive database of law school employment statistics and costs, using data from NALP, the ABA and law school websites.

Columbia University ranks at the top of the list at $287,820, followed by The University of California, Berkeley School of Law ranks at the top of the list for cost — at $285,279.

But there are caveats. The study assumes that students will pay out-of-state tuition and that they will pay the full tuition amount in the form of federal loans. For purposes of the study, Law School Transparency assumed tuition would rise a modest 3 percent a year, and cost of living would rise 2 percent a year. The group also factors in interest and inflation.

The least expensive school in the study is the University of North Dakota at only $117,955. The median is $208,000. 

"We want to get into the faculties heads and the board of trustees that these costs will simply not work and that they are grossly unfair to students," McEntee said. 

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