Student debt drops at most schools - according to one analysis

Want to go to law school? Get thee to Tulsa.

That’s in Oklahoma, FYI. Nice state. Not very crowded. It's also home to the University of Tulsa College of Law.

And no other law school has reduced student debt over the past three years as significantly as that school.

It’s gone from $94,834 to $40,340 — a whopping 57.5% reduction.

Yes, get thee to Tulsa …

That student debt analysis comes from Derek Muller, a professor at Pepperdine Caruso School of Law in Malibu, Calif., who likes to crunch numbers and post the results on his blog, Excess of Democracy

In this case, his number crunching is nothing but good news for law school students because Tulsa is actually not an outlier. 

He was able to gather student debt data from 150 schools and found that 120 of them saw debt levels drop.

His school? Pepperdine went from $126,341 to $106,229 for a 15.9% drop.

(Get thee to Malibu!) 

Muller gets the information from U.S. News & World Report, which he cautions — as he has in the past — has flaws.  He notes: "Some schools are unable to read the USNWR forms correctly and only report some of the debt one year and the cumulative debt another year; I don't attempt to determine which schools made that error, but schools appear better at reporting data over the years.”

He also notes how his cacluation may vary because he includes those students who had no debt: "The debt figures listed on USNWR are an average for those who incurred debt; to arrive at a more accurate picture of the debt load of the class as a whole, I then factored in the percentage of students who graduated without any debt to reach an overall average."

This is the third time he’s crunched the number — factoring in inflation as well each time— and this most recent analysis saw the greatest number of schools seeing reductions.

Six years ago, he found reductions at 30 schools. Three years ago, of the 163 schools for which he had data, 115 saw drops.

This time, the news was even better. He offers a number of possible reasons:

“Scholarship awards appear to be outpacing tuition hikes — which has been a several-year trend and places schools in increasingly precarious financial positions. Students are no longer purchasing health care due to the ability to remain on their parents' health insurance under federal law, a significant cost for students a few years ago. Schools have increasingly eased, or abolished, stipulations on scholarships, which means students graduate with less debt. Some schools have slashed tuition prices.”

Slashed tuition prices?

That would be Tulsa. The National Jurist did a story a few years ago about that slashing, which was quite a slashing. It cut tuition by 35%. It went from $37,960 to $24,600 under the so-called “Access to Legal Education Tuition” program.

“By reducing student debt, TU Law graduates will be better positioned to launch fulfilling legal careers in large or small firms, government, solo or rural practices, and public interest work with underserved communities,” said Dean Lyn Entzeroth, a the time.

It’s also generous with scholarships. As the school website notes: “Currently 88% of the overall student body receives scholarships and specifically, 90% of the 2019 entering class received scholarships.”

But, as noted, other schools are seeing reduced student debt.  Here’s his chart:

Inflation-Adjusted Average Law School Debt Incurred by All Law Students Between 2016 & 2019
School 2016 2019 Dollar diff Pct diff
University of Tulsa $94,834 $40,340 -$54,494 -57.5%
Northeastern University $92,739 $45,714 -$47,025 -50.7%
Ohio Northern University (Pettit) $99,056 $52,743 -$46,313 -46.8%
University of Detroit Mercy $90,919 $50,769 -$40,149 -44.2%
George Mason University $79,264 $45,946 -$33,319 -42.0%
Texas A&M University $99,638 $58,396 -$41,242 -41.4%
University of Missouri $68,569 $43,423 -$25,146 -36.7%
Elon University $143,573 $91,630 -$51,943 -36.2%
Wayne State University $64,458 $41,659 -$22,799 -35.4%
University of Kansas $72,021 $48,728 -$23,293 -32.3%
University of Wyoming $77,451 $52,565 -$24,886 -32.1%
University of Arkansas--Fayetteville $58,285 $40,030 -$18,255 -31.3%
Indiana University--Indianapolis (McKinney) $102,264 $70,370 -$31,894 -31.2%
University of Cincinnati $67,928 $46,985 -$20,943 -30.8%
Texas Tech University $72,171 $50,692 -$21,478 -29.8%
University of New Hampshire $79,842 $56,719 -$23,123 -29.0%
Florida State University $72,692 $52,888 -$19,804 -27.2%
New York Law School $136,346 $100,312 -$36,033 -26.4%
Western State College of Law at Westcliff University $101,993 $75,454 -$26,539 -26.0%
University of Richmond $93,356 $69,776 -$23,580 -25.3%
Drexel University (Kline) $86,604 $64,862 -$21,742 -25.1%
University of Louisville (Brandeis) $84,498 $63,427 -$21,071 -24.9%
Regent University $112,752 $85,343 -$27,409 -24.3%
Pace University (Haub) $106,847 $81,061 -$25,786 -24.1%
University of Toledo $76,705 $58,258 -$18,447 -24.0%
Illinois Institute of Technology (Chicago-Kent) $89,096 $68,387 -$20,709 -23.2%
University of Minnesota $78,017 $59,947 -$18,070 -23.2%
University of Tennessee--Knoxville $68,864 $53,255 -$15,610 -22.7%
University of Alabama $55,130 $43,057 -$12,073 -21.9%
Emory University $94,348 $73,766 -$20,582 -21.8%
Southern Illinois University--Carbondale $78,174 $61,142 -$17,032 -21.8%
University of North Carolina--Chapel Hill $75,952 $59,444 -$16,508 -21.7%
University of Dayton $98,846 $77,929 -$20,917 -21.2%
University of California (Hastings) $121,322 $96,303 -$25,019 -20.6%
University of Akron $75,190 $59,816 -$15,374 -20.4%
University of Nevada--Las Vegas $75,979 $60,637 -$15,342 -20.2%
Marquette University $130,402 $104,256 -$26,146 -20.1%
University of Georgia $69,415 $55,724 -$13,690 -19.7%
University of California--Davis $77,712 $62,486 -$15,226 -19.6%
University of Michigan--Ann Arbor $113,064 $91,026 -$22,038 -19.5%
Washburn University $66,857 $53,847 -$13,010 -19.5%
St. John's University $95,450 $76,945 -$18,505 -19.4%
Liberty University $59,671 $48,107 -$11,565 -19.4%
University of Pittsburgh $89,232 $72,596 -$16,636 -18.6%
Samford University (Cumberland) $108,188 $88,037 -$20,151 -18.6%
Suffolk University $106,737 $87,090 -$19,648 -18.4%
Northwestern University (Pritzker) $107,778 $88,138 -$19,640 -18.2%
Albany Law School $89,205 $72,957 -$16,248 -18.2%
University of Colorado--Boulder $81,575 $66,766 -$14,809 -18.2%
University of Oklahoma $67,108 $54,938 -$12,171 -18.1%
University of Miami $108,997 $89,275 -$19,722 -18.1%
Villanova University $75,422 $61,872 -$13,549 -18.0%
University of Illinois--Urbana-Champaign $76,180 $62,659 -$13,521 -17.7%
DePaul University $111,743 $91,990 -$19,754 -17.7%
Willamette University College of Law $131,498 $108,357 -$23,141 -17.6%
University of St. Thomas $78,999 $65,504 -$13,495 -17.1%
Baylor University $113,629 $94,415 -$19,214 -16.9%
Brooklyn Law School $84,611 $70,414 -$14,196 -16.8%
Stanford University $109,728 $91,379 -$18,349 -16.7%
Georgetown University $131,170 $109,668 -$21,502 -16.4%
Louisiana State University--Baton Rouge (Hebert) $68,023 $56,878 -$11,145 -16.4%
University of Montana $71,101 $59,526 -$11,576 -16.3%
Pepperdine University (Caruso) $126,341 $106,229 -$20,112 -15.9%
Golden Gate University $150,786 $126,974 -$23,812 -15.8%
Boston College $80,194 $68,029 -$12,166 -15.2%
Roger Williams University $116,497 $99,060 -$17,437 -15.0%
University of Maryland (Carey) $88,863 $75,764 -$13,099 -14.7%
Florida International University $87,527 $74,927 -$12,600 -14.4%
Fordham University $94,529 $81,126 -$13,403 -14.2%
Washington and Lee University $90,547 $78,408 -$12,139 -13.4%
University of Missouri--Kansas City $91,276 $79,055 -$12,221 -13.4%
University of Arkansas--Little Rock (Bowen) $55,520 $48,139 -$7,381 -13.3%
Quinnipiac University $92,334 $80,074 -$12,261 -13.3%
University of Utah (Quinney) $81,371 $70,607 -$10,763 -13.2%
University of Southern California (Gould) $103,426 $91,037 -$12,389 -12.0%
University of South Dakota $58,014 $51,107 -$6,906 -11.9%
University of Maine $74,405 $65,690 -$8,715 -11.7%
Wake Forest University $84,549 $74,714 -$9,835 -11.6%
Indiana University--Bloomington (Maurer) $78,538 $69,410 -$9,128 -11.6%
University of the Pacific (McGeorge) $135,007 $119,595 -$15,412 -11.4%
CUNY $64,328 $56,992 -$7,337 -11.4%
Duquesne University $98,700 $87,572 -$11,129 -11.3%
Seattle University $124,338 $110,377 -$13,961 -11.2%
Northern Illinois University $77,824 $69,191 -$8,633 -11.1%
University of Wisconsin--Madison $58,933 $52,502 -$6,432 -10.9%
University of Texas--Austin $73,528 $65,513 -$8,014 -10.9%
Mississippi College $103,608 $92,948 -$10,660 -10.3%
Drake University $105,759 $95,067 -$10,692 -10.1%
Yeshiva University (Cardozo) $81,204 $73,348 -$7,856 -9.7%
University of Mississippi $53,796 $48,644 -$5,151 -9.6%
University of Baltimore $94,694 $85,627 -$9,067 -9.6%
University of Pennsylvania (Carey) $118,391 $107,516 -$10,876 -9.2%
University of San Francisco $145,407 $132,305 -$13,101 -9.0%
University of North Dakota $48,761 $44,488 -$4,274 -8.8%
University of Nebraska--Lincoln $48,245 $44,066 -$4,180 -8.7%
University of Virginia $111,177 $102,309 -$8,868 -8.0%
University of Denver (Sturm) $129,882 $119,929 -$9,953 -7.7%
University at Buffalo--SUNY $79,323 $73,514 -$5,808 -7.3%
University of California--Berkeley $111,367 $103,316 -$8,051 -7.2%
Cornell University $109,464 $101,769 -$7,695 -7.0%
Duke University $105,132 $97,766 -$7,366 -7.0%
University of Notre Dame $99,175 $92,261 -$6,914 -7.0%
Harvard University $125,210 $117,278 -$7,933 -6.3%
Creighton University $111,743 $104,672 -$7,071 -6.3%
University of California--Los Angeles $92,890 $87,053 -$5,837 -6.3%
Lewis & Clark College (Northwestern) $115,655 $108,659 -$6,996 -6.0%
New York University $113,752 $107,997 -$5,755 -5.1%
Nova Southeastern University (Broad) $136,978 $130,501 -$6,477 -4.7%
Brigham Young University (Clark) $42,862 $41,168 -$1,694 -4.0%
University of Arizona (Rogers) $55,949 $53,878 -$2,071 -3.7%
Santa Clara University $113,377 $109,363 -$4,014 -3.5%
Ohio State University (Moritz) $72,098 $69,938 -$2,160 -3.0%
Temple University (Beasley) $69,212 $67,282 -$1,930 -2.8%
University of Illinois--Chicago (John Marshall) $141,204 $137,338 -$3,866 -2.7%
Vanderbilt University $87,247 $85,179 -$2,068 -2.4%
West Virginia University $68,747 $67,226 -$1,520 -2.2%
Tulane University $106,019 $103,693 -$2,326 -2.2%
American University (Washington) $127,674 $125,256 -$2,418 -1.9%
Loyola Marymount University $113,944 $113,036 -$909 -0.8%
University of South Carolina $76,948 $76,898 -$50 -0.1%
University of Houston $67,319 $67,467 $149 0.2%
Hofstra University (Deane) $117,074 $117,624 $549 0.5%
California Western School of Law $139,637 $140,401 $764 0.5%
University of Florida (Levin) $62,549 $63,195 $645 1.0%
University of Iowa $55,262 $56,082 $819 1.5%
St. Mary's University $115,854 $117,939 $2,085 1.8%
Boston University $74,210 $76,152 $1,942 2.6%
Stetson University $109,562 $112,575 $3,013 2.8%
Columbia University $108,041 $112,226 $4,185 3.9%
Seton Hall University $76,352 $80,080 $3,728 4.9%
University of California--Irvine $83,373 $87,917 $4,545 5.5%
Gonzaga University $92,832 $98,372 $5,541 6.0%
Southern Methodist University (Dedman) $90,731 $96,344 $5,614 6.2%
Yale University $88,832 $94,334 $5,502 6.2%
The Catholic University of America $102,315 $109,379 $7,064 6.9%
University of Massachusetts--Dartmouth $87,623 $95,554 $7,931 9.1%
Charleston School of Law $117,018 $128,379 $11,361 9.7%
George Washington University $93,366 $104,642 $11,276 12.1%
Washington University in St. Louis $57,885 $65,834 $7,949 13.7%
University of Memphis (Humphreys) $62,321 $71,139 $8,818 14.1%
University of Connecticut $52,844 $62,206 $9,362 17.7%
Oklahoma City University $88,184 $103,827 $15,643 17.7%
University of San Diego $91,396 $108,298 $16,902 18.5%
Ave Maria School of Law $114,409 $136,034 $21,625 18.9%
University of Chicago $89,043 $107,795 $18,751 21.1%
Florida Coastal School of Law $118,266 $147,238 $28,971 24.5%
Campbell University $115,833 $162,478 $46,645 40.3%
University of Idaho $62,984 $91,180 $28,196 44.8%
University of Kentucky $44,578 $65,102 $20,525 46.0%
North Carolina Central University $58,588 $100,022 $41,435 70.7%
 
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