[UPDATE: Seton Hall’s average graduate debt datum is now accounted for in this post, lowering the number of non-reporting law schools to 13 this year. Without altering the substantive points of the post, please consider the necessary changes having been made.]
The record was 14 last year, which was still too high.
Each year U.S. News ranks law schools based on how much debt their graduates take on. The figure excludes accrued interest, but it’s probably the best estimate of the cost of attendance at a particular law school. It’s also, unfortunately, the only source for this information as the ABA does not publicize it in the 509 Information Reports. Here’s this year’s list of absentees and their debt levels in their last reported year:
- Arizona Summit – $190,471 (2015, can be found on the school’s Web site [Interestingly, no one took out private loans…])
- New England – $132,246 (2014)
Seton Hall – $127,075 (2014)
- Faulkner – $122,187 (2014)
- Missouri (Kansas City) – $103,038 (2014)
- Southern Illinois – $67,966 (2014)
- Appalachian – $114,740 (2013)
- Atlanta’s John Marshall – $142,515 (2013)
- Florida A&M – $96,934 (2012)
- La Verne – $112,628 (2013)
- Rutgers-Camden – $93,990 (2013)
- Southwestern – $147,976 (2013)
- Texas Southern – $99,992 (2013)
- WMU Cooley – $122,395 (2013)
I’m excluding the three Puerto Rico law schools and Widener Harrisburg because U.S. News usually does too. In point of fact, Belmont had 119 graduates last year, so it probably should have been included as well, but I’ll be lenient today. I’d hate to see the record broken.
These schools account for
3,361 3,076 graduates out of 43,118 (excl. Puerto Rico), or 8 7 percent of the total.
The unweighted average private law school graduate debt rose from $124,638 last year to $
127,740 127,743 this year ( 2.4% 2.5%). For public law schools: $88,287 in 2013 to $89,471 in 2014 (1.3%). I haven’t QC-ed this year’s figures, but I’m confident they’re right.
Other amusing facts:
- Kudos to Barry and District of Columbia for correctly reporting their graduates’ debt levels this year. In 2014, both schools reported what must have been their graduates’ debt for their final year.
- I’m curious why some schools saw large leaps in debt, e.g. South Dakota (45%), Arkansas (Little Rock) (33%), Baylor (30%), Elon (22%), and Pace (20%). It doesn’t appear they blatantly misreported last year, but these are odd fluctuations, particularly given that some of these schools saw 15% drops in debt disbursed last year.
- Big ol’ raspberry to Howard for reporting what must be its graduates’ final year of debt: $24,021. Last year, it reported $123,485.
- Although the ABA hasn’t “acquiesced” yet, it’s nice to see Hamline’s numbers reported. I expected them to not appear.
That is all.
Since you made me curious, I did look at Arizona Summit.
Is it just me or did Arizona Summit report 161 graduates of the Class of 2013 being employed in “bar passage required” jobs, even though only 152 Arizona Summit graduates total passed the bar in July and February in all jurisdictions per Arizona’s Standard 509?
What is that called again? Erratum? I know the ABA will get right on it. This consumer information is too critical for mistakes…
Maybe a bunch of 2013 grads passed it in Feb. 2014? The information report is the calendar year.
If they’re graduating students in May or June 2013, a 10-month employment stat is those employed as of March or April 2014. February bar results don’t come out until May 2014.
But I should have excluded the bar passers from February 2013, because those students had to be 2012’s class.
So really, the oddity of having more people in bar-passage-required jobs than passed the bar in those 10 months is bigger. I think it looks implausible, at least.
Arizona $ummiTTTT has the peak average law student indebtedness figure. Coincidence?!
The much-anticipated/dreaded annual ranking of law schools has been unleashed by U.S. News to the usual howls of outrage mingled with squeals of glee. There are few, if any, other lists that are simultaneously so heavily used and so widely criticized. The disproportionately immense influence these rankings exert on a law school’s volume of applications, applicants’ credentials, job placement results, and student retention, must be considered in light of the many assumptions, biases, and inaccuracies that taint the numbers.
Any metric that purports to assess the relative merit of institutions of higher education should be subject to the highest possible means of maximizing objectivity, transparency, proper focus, and freedom from manipulation. It is a poorly kept secret among law professors and deans that the U.S. News rankings are deeply flawed in every one of these criteria. This allows some law schools to game the system and exploit their inflated rank to their own advantage, while many others are thrown into a desperate whirlpool of negative publicity and unfair preconceptions.
This matters in several ways, but most notably in the distortion of alternative analysis for potential law students contemplating the law schools to which they may apply, and for rising 2Ls considering whether to transfer to a “better” school for the remainder of their law school career. Each year, thousands of such decisions are made. To the extent law school rankings are an important factor in shaping these decisions, it is imperative that these rankings be reformed to correct the multiple profound deficiencies that render the results both misleading and dangerous.
IF the government limits/caps loans to 20 per student in their lifetime. Tuition would drop
If anyone remains agnostic as to the objectivity and reliability of the U.S. News rankings, consider this. As usual, the latest list shows little movement among the “elite” law schools; these relative positions remained mostly stable from last year’s report. But beneath the top 50, there were some remarkable changes in overall score, in just one year. Why? Do these precipitous leaps and crashes accurate reflect what the rankings purport to represent, or something very different?
As the National Law Journal has reported, “Thirteen saw their rankings change by 20 or more spots—up from eight last year. Forty law schools moved 10 or more spots, up from 37 last year.” With only schools ranked 149 and above given an actual ranking, roughly 25% of currently accredited law schools are arbitrarily lumped together, unranked, in the U.S. News version of a Walmart clearance bin. This means that 13 schools of the supposedly top 150 moved above or below 20 of their competitors—in a single year. How is this possible in any legitimate, objectively-derived way?
As the recent controversy over “predatory poaching” illustrates, some law schools aggressively structure their initial admissions criteria and their transfer-student criteria to maximize both their U.S. news score and their surplus of revenues over expenses. It is human nature for self-interested people to manipulate that which can be manipulated to maintain or enhance their own advantage. Meanwhile, there is a perverse incentive to ignore or devote less attention to those aspects of the law school experience that are minimized or entirely excluded from the U.S. News numbers. Racial, ethnic, and gender diversity? Zero influence on the rankings. Community service, clinical opportunities, and outreach? Again, zero. Programs to benefit the students, including underserved and nontraditional students, such as academic support and bar exam preparation? Yes, zero.
The U.S. News chart has the appearance of mathematical precision without the actuality thereof. The numbers look so scientific, so definite. There are no margins of error or measures of probability mentioned. And with 12 factors considered, each with a weight calculated down to the hundredth of 1 percent, how can the rankings be less than reliable and rigorous? The truth is that the rankings convey the illusion of validity, camouflaging the immense subjectivity, bias, imprecision, and manipulability of the underlying input. I am tempted to dredge up the cliché “garbage in, garbage out,” but that would be a disservice to municipal household waste. At least some of that has actual value in composting and recycling.
I cannot help but notice, although, that no one forces law schools to participate in the US News rankings.
There are undergraduate institutions that refuse to participate.
If law schools think they don’t look hot in that US News pageant, then they can just not enter the pageant.
Instead of spending huge amounts of money competing in a pageant the believe is meaningless, law schools could focus on providing an education that is actually superior to their competitors and at a low, low price too. I crack myself up.