PRIVATE LAW SCHOOL TUITION PROJECTIONS

After adjusting for inflation, private law school tuition appears to grow at a roughly linear rate, so don’t let anyone say it’s growing exponentially; it’s just not true.
Real Law School Tuition (1985-2012)

(Source: ABA)

Public law school tuition both for in-state and out-state students is affected by state government cuts to education subsidies, and the schools fill the shortfalls by raising their costs significantly. Consequently, future public law school tuition cannot be projected.

Why law school costs more than before shouldn’t be too difficult to figure out: Legal education isn’t a free market service. It’s heavily subsidized by the federal government, allowing law schools to raise their costs as long as students are willing to pay them. Even as enrollments decline, if nothing is done taxpayers will be left to cover law student debtors’ loans that are on income-sensitive repayment plans. Debtors whose loans are ineligible for IBR or ICR will require debt relief.

Because private law schools’ costs aren’t due to lost government subsidies, we can try to calculate their tuition going into the future. These tables project private law school tuition five and ten years from the last years for which I have been able to find data from the ABA-LSAC Official Guide to the ABA Law Schools (1999-2012). The methodology I used takes the average of the annual growth rate for each private law school’s tuition and then projects it into the future. The methodology differs from the linear regression model I used in previous years. I chose to change the methodology because it’s the most precise one I’ve been able to find. More information can be found here.

My methodology assumes that a law schools’ tuition will increase largely as it has in the past. This should be a somewhat controversial assumption as some law schools saw dramatic tuition increases in recent years, and the overall growth rates have fallen recently. Here are two charts of the dispersal of nominal tuition increases at private law schools since 1996.

Dispersal of FT Private LS Tuition Price Increases (Current $, excl. PR) Dispersal of FT Private LS Tuition Price Increases (Current $, excl. PR, Zoomed In)

In 2012, the average nominal growth rate was below 4 percent, which is very low historically.

As an aid to readers, I’ve included a column on the right side of the table giving the “relative variance,” which is a measure of how (im)precise the projected tuition is based on the tests I ran. I think the lower it is the better. The idea is to give readers a measure of how reliable the estimate is, given that some law schools engaged in serious expansions in recent years that I doubt they could get away with now, especially Faulkner University, which doubled its tuition in the span of a few years.

These projections are not adjusted for inflation, and the table is sorted by the 2022-2023 academic year.

# SCHOOL TUITION: 2012-2013 TUITION: 2017-2018 TUITION: 2022-2023 RELATIVE VARIANCE
1. Cornell Law School (NY) 55,301 66,744 78,188 0.4%
2. Columbia University (NY) 55,488 65,840 76,191 -1.0%
3. Yale Law School (CT) 53,600 63,850 74,100 2.0%
4. Northwestern University (IL) 53,468 63,706 73,943 1.0%
5. University of Pennsylvania (PA) 53,138 63,164 73,190 -0.8%
6. University of Southern California (CA) 52,598 62,616 72,633 0.0%
7. Baylor University (TX) 46,420 59,295 72,169 -0.6%
8. Duke University (NC) 51,662 61,492 71,323 -0.2%
9. Harvard Law School (MA) 50,880 60,560 70,241 -0.3%
10. Yeshiva University (NY) 50,046 59,984 69,923 0.7%
11. Brooklyn Law School (NY) 50,001 59,949 69,898 0.9%
12. Stanford Law School (CA) 50,802 60,204 69,605 0.5%
13. Seton Hall University (NJ) 48,170 58,730 69,290 1.8%
14. New York Law School (NY) 49,225 59,208 69,192 1.3%
15. New York University (NY) 51,150 59,860 68,569 2.0%
16. University of Chicago (IL) 50,727 59,629 68,531 -2.5%
17. Fordham University (NY) 49,526 58,946 68,365 0.8%
18. St. John’s University (NY) 48,070 58,097 68,124 0.9%
19. Quinnipiac University (CT) 47,076 56,876 66,677 -0.2%
20. Georgetown University (DC) 48,835 57,732 66,628 -0.4%
21. Hofstra University (NY) 47,660 57,050 66,440 -0.4%
22. Washington University (MO) 47,490 56,417 65,344 0.8%
23. Vermont Law School (VT) 45,732 55,523 65,314 0.5%
24. George Washington University (DC) 47,535 55,958 64,381 -0.2%
25. American University (DC) 46,794 55,526 64,259 0.1%
26. Faulkner University (AL) 33,360 48,660 63,960 6.8%
27. Notre Dame (IN) 45,980 54,947 63,913 -2.0%
28. Vanderbilt University (TN) 46,804 55,349 63,894 2.4%
29. Washington and Lee University (VA) 43,462 53,189 62,917 1.1%
30. Syracuse University (NY) 45,690 54,165 62,639 3.9%
31. Case Western Reserve University (OH) 44,620 53,574 62,528 -0.6%
32. Drexel University (PA) 40,270 51,245 62,220 -6.7%
33. Phoenix School of Law (AZ) 39,533 50,426 61,319 1.3%
34. Southern Methodist University (TX) 44,017 52,659 61,301 -0.6%
35. Emory University (GA) 45,098 53,185 61,273 3.9%
36. Pepperdine University (CA) 44,980 53,103 61,226 -1.2%
37. Suffolk University (MA) 44,064 52,616 61,167 0.8%
38. California Western (CA) 43,700 52,281 60,862 1.8%
39. Loyola Marymount (CA) 44,230 52,476 60,722 1.2%
40. Southwestern University (CA) 43,850 52,219 60,588 0.1%
41. University of San Diego (CA) 43,860 52,218 60,575 1.0%
42. DePaul University (IL) 43,220 51,828 60,435 0.5%
43. Chapman University (CA) 43,536 51,954 60,371 0.1%
44. Santa Clara University (CA) 43,680 52,018 60,357 -0.6%
45. Charlotte School of Law (NC) 38,606 49,404 60,201 1.6%
46. New England Law | Boston (MA) 40,984 50,555 60,126 5.1%
47. Union University (NY) 42,675 51,348 60,021 2.3%
48. University of New Hampshire (NH) 41,190 50,455 59,721 1.7%
49. Touro College (NY) 42,930 51,299 59,668 1.6%
50. Boston University (MA) 44,168 51,890 59,613 0.1%
51. University of the Pacific (CA) 43,045 51,257 59,469 0.0%
52. Thomas Jefferson School of Law (CA) 42,000 50,423 58,846 1.8%
53. Tulane University (LA) 43,684 51,144 58,604 3.7%
54. Loyola University New Orleans (LA) 41,448 49,893 58,337 -3.9%
55. University of Miami (FL) 42,938 50,591 58,244 -3.9%
56. Boston College (MA) 43,511 50,806 58,100 -0.6%
57. Golden Gate University (CA) 42,010 50,045 58,079 0.3%
58. Northeastern University (MA) 43,048 50,559 58,070 1.9%
59. University of San Francisco (CA) 42,364 50,060 57,756 -0.7%
60. Illinois Institute of Technology (IL) 42,030 49,813 57,595 4.0%
61. University of La Verne (CA) 40,732 49,000 57,269 4.9%
62. Catholic University of America (DC) 43,245 50,227 57,209 0.4%
63. Pace University (NY) 42,198 49,590 56,981 0.7%
64. Roger Williams University (RI) 40,930 48,922 56,915 0.6%
65. University of St. Thomas (MN) 39,244 47,895 56,546 -7.5%
66. University of Denver (CO) 39,840 48,163 56,486 0.9%
67. Seattle University (WA) 39,884 47,865 55,846 2.7%
68. Florida Coastal (FL) 39,370 47,458 55,547 -2.2%
69. John Marshall (Chicago) (IL) 39,884 47,655 55,426 -0.4%
70. Western New England College (MA) 39,574 47,160 54,746 0.5%
71. Valparaiso University (IN) 38,852 46,704 54,555 2.2%
72. Whittier Law School (CA) 40,260 47,308 54,357 0.8%
73. John Marshall (Atlanta) (GA) 36,183 45,207 54,230 1.4%
74. University of Detroit Mercy (MI) 38,180 46,168 54,157 -1.5%
75. Loyola University Chicago (IL) 40,582 47,340 54,099 0.7%
76. Western State University (CA) 39,600 46,777 53,954 -2.4%
77. Elon University (NC) 36,100 44,975 53,850 0.8%
78. Marquette University (WI) 38,690 46,225 53,759 1.1%
79. Villanova University (PA) 38,910 46,152 53,395 0.9%
80. Charleston Law School (SC) 37,874 45,536 53,197 1.4%
81. Wake Forest University (NC) 39,190 46,090 52,990 2.6%
82. Lewis & Clark College (OR) 38,180 45,488 52,795 -0.9%
83. Widener University (DE) 38,250 45,442 52,635 -1.0%
84. Widener University (Harrisburg) (PA) 38,250 45,442 52,635 -1.0%
85. Thams M. Cooley Law School (MI) 37,140 44,746 52,352 -3.7%
86. Ave Maria School of Law (FL) 37,270 44,780 52,290 2.0%
87. Mercer University (GA) 37,260 44,187 51,114 2.9%
88. Hamline University (MN) 36,396 43,666 50,937 -1.2%
89. Michigan State University (MI) 35,377 42,888 50,399 6.0%
90. Duquesne University (PA) 35,354 42,635 49,916 -0.4%
91. University of Richmond (VA) 36,850 43,354 49,858 -0.4%
92. William Mitchell College of Law (MN) 36,020 42,905 49,789 3.2%
93. Saint Louis University (MO) 36,885 43,329 49,773 1.7%
94. Samford University (AL) 36,216 42,847 49,478 -0.1%
95. Campbell University (NC) 35,340 42,111 48,882 -0.2%
96. Drake University (IA) 35,282 42,071 48,860 0.3%
97. Regent University (VA) 34,405 41,536 48,667 -0.6%
98. Oklahoma City University (OK) 34,290 41,267 48,245 8.1%
99. Stetson University (FL) 36,168 42,194 48,220 1.5%
100. Gonzaga University (WA) 35,460 41,625 47,791 -0.4%
101. St. Thomas University (FL) 36,226 41,794 47,361 -1.5%
102. Willamette University (OR) 34,690 40,963 47,236 -2.8%
103. Capital University (OH) 33,263 39,911 46,558 2.4%
104. Howard University (DC) 31,640 38,892 46,144 -3.6%
105. Creighton University (NE) 33,490 39,788 46,087 0.9%
106. Barry University (FL) 34,300 40,120 45,940 1.6%
107. Appalachian School of Law (VA) 31,525 38,491 45,457 -1.1%
108. Nova Southeastern University (FL) 34,330 39,853 45,376 0.1%
109. Liberty University (VA) 32,002 38,600 45,197 -0.3%
110. Ohio Northern University (OH) 33,684 39,316 44,949 0.6%
111. University of Dayton (OH) 33,630 38,901 44,172 -3.1%
112. University of Tulsa (OK) 31,836 37,516 43,197 4.6%
113. Texas Wesleyan University (TX) 30,580 36,588 42,595 -2.1%
114. St. Mary’s University (TX) 30,566 36,122 41,678 -0.2%
115. Mississippi College (MS) 29,450 35,478 41,505 3.3%
116. South Texas College of Law (TX) 27,600 32,008 36,415 0.5%
117. Brigham Young University (UT) 21,900 27,238 32,577 1.8%
MEDIAN 40,930 49,813 57,756 0.5%
MEAN AVERAGE 41,132 49,240 57,349 0.5%
AVG DEVIATION 5,131 6,019 7,116 1.6%

*****
Finally, because the tuition growth rates have dropped recently, I might not repeat this project in 2014. It’s important to me that the projections not sensationalize and overshoot law schools’ sticker prices in the future, no matter how precise the methodology.

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