Which graduates have highest salaries and lowest debt

If you needed any more reason to go to Stanford University Law School, here you go. No other school does better when it comes to graduates’ debt-to-income ratio. The median debt for graduates is $120,400. The median income during their first year of employment  is $156,700.

That’s right. You’ll be ahead of the game! For most of the nation's law schools, that's a rarity. 

For the first time, the U.S. Department of Education has released income and debt figures of college graduates, including those receiving advanced degrees. It wanted such information known so prospective students could make more educated decisions about where — and whether — to go.

A number of people analyzed the figures to see how the nation’s law schools stacked up against each. Derek Muller, a professor at the Pepperdine Caruso School of Law, did an analysis on his blog, Excess of Democracy.

And he came up with Stanford as No. 1.

While that might not be a big shock, there were a number of interesting results.

The University of Iowa College of Law almost cracked the top 10 in debt-to-income ratio, finishing 11th. It bettered such schools as New York University School of Law and UC Berkeley School of Law.

There is a catch, though. The University of Iowa’s debt-to-income ratio was based on a median income of $62,700 compared to a median debt of $62,249, for a ratio of 0.99.

And if you graduate from NYU? Your first year median income is a wee bit higher, at $175,800. (That was the highest of all law schools.)  Your debt, at $183,857, is also a wee bit higher.

Only 11 schools have a debt-to-income ration of below 1.0, according to Muller’s analysis. That means at every other law school, you’re likely going to be behind after graduation.

In Muller’s analysis, graduates from just 16 schools make more than six figures in their first year out of law school. Yes, they are from the nation’s top law schools.

However, more than 110 schools had median debt of more than $100,000 and for many of them, the median income was scary-low. Look at Thomas Jefferson School of Law. That San Diego school recently lost American Bar Association (ABA) accreditation for being out of compliance for a number of reasons, including poor bar passage.

Well, it’s debt-to-income ratio is another nail its coffin: Students graduate with more than $195,000 in debt but have a median income of $37,400. 

There were a number of schools with similarly disturbing results, such as Florida Coastal School of Law. Graduates of that Jacksonville-based school had a median debt of nearly $200,000, but a median income of just $35,300.

Some in legal eduction question the accuracy of the government figures, which come from federal government sources, not the schools. 

No doubt some schools were not thrilled with the results. For instance, some of the more prestigious schools did crack the $100,000 mark in median income, such as The University of Southern California Gould School of Law. The median income for its grads in their first year of employment is $96,600, while the median debt is $121,453.

Muller and others noted that this is first-year income, and income can rise after the first year, so the picture is hardly complete. Still, the figures can give prospective students an idea of their earning potential.

Wesley Whistle, an education expert writing in Forbes noted: “This data shows some schools provide an immediate return on investment and others do not. It also shows that some of the highest debt loads are schools producing incredibly low wages.”

He added: “It is important to remember this is just a snapshot of the immediate payoff of a law degree and many will see their salaries rise over time. However, there are some clear outliers, both good and bad, in both salaries and debt.”