How much does law school cost?
Cost of Attendance
Law school can be an expensive investment. Students considering law school should look closely at the cost of attendance (COA) for schools of interest and understand how they will finance law school debt before making the decision to attend. The cost of attendance includes tuition, fees, books and supplies, room and board, transportation, and some personal expenses. Each school is required by the American Bar Association (ABA) to publish its cost of attendance and students can find this information on the school’s website, usually on its financial aid office page.
In 2019, the average cost of tuition and fees (not including cost-of-living expenses) at a private law school was $49,312 per year. For out-of-state students at public law schools, tuition and fees (not including cost-of-living expenses) averaged $41,628 per year. In-state students at public institutions paid an average of $28,186 per year. Review Law School Transparency's Data Dashboard on Law School Costs.
Grants and Scholarships
Many students do not pay “sticker price” for law school but rather receive grants and scholarships that reduce their tuition (discounted tuition). Most of these grants and scholarships are merit-based, meaning they are determined primarily based on UGPA (undergraduate grade-point average) and standardized test (LSAT or GRE) scores. Schools must report the percentage of students receiving grants and scholarships and the 25th, 50th and 75th percentile grant amounts on their ABA Standard 509 Information Report. Students can always find this information by clicking the words “ABA Required Disclosures” which usually appear on a law school’s website or typing in “509” into the search bar on the law school’s website. Always check the financial aid page of a law school’s website to learn if there are any additional scholarship opportunities available through a separate application procedure. The most common of these are for students interested in practicing public interest law.
Limited law school scholarship opportunities exist through outside organizations, but AccessLex has a databank of scholarships that is worth reviewing.
If you are considering law school, it is critical to calculate your projected debt and create a plan for repayment. In most domestic students, the federal government is willing to loan a student (as long as the student does not have an adverse credit history) the total cost of attendance for an accredited law school minus grants and scholarships through Federal Direct loans including Stafford and GradPLUS loans. For more information on these loans, review the Federal Student Aid website. This does not mean that the resulting loan payments will be affordable. One important difference between these and undergraduate student loans is that interest accrues at disbursement, so you will owe more than you borrowed upon graduation. The average student loan debt for law school graduates is approximately $140,000. Read here for more information about Debt-Financed Cost of Attendance.
To determine whether law school is worth the projected debt, students need to research employment outcomes for law school graduates, analyze expected salaries in their legal specialties of interest, and examine alternative pathways if their career goals are not practicing law.
For an overview, read AccessLex's Financing Your Legal Education.