Record 16 Law Schools Didn’t Report 2015 Graduate Debt to U.S. News

…And for some reason U.S. News didn’t rank law schools by debt, generously offering me an opportunity to do so in its stead.

Each year U.S. News lists the amount of debt law schools’ recent graduates took out. Importantly, the figure excludes accrued interest, which can be quite considerable. However, these figures are probably the best estimate of the cost of attendance at a particular law school, presented in a comparable form. The ABA does not publicize graduate debt in the 509 information reports, making U.S. News an unfortunately necessary source.

Here’s the debt table. A recurring problem in U.S. News‘ debt data is law schools that misreport their graduating students’ annual debt as opposed to their cumulative debt, which is what the magazine asks for. Thus, I include last year’s numbers for illustration and encourage ridicule of law schools that cannot follow basic directions.

# SCHOOL 2014 DEBT 2015 DEBT PCT. CHANGE
1. Thomas Jefferson 172,445 172,726 0.2%
2. Columbia 154,076 168,627 9.4%
3. New York University 147,744 166,022 12.4%
4. San Francisco 154,321 162,434 5.3%
5. John Marshall (Chicago) 143,518 162,264 13.1%
6. California Western 151,197 162,260 7.3%
7. New York Law School 166,622 161,910 -2.8%
8. Florida Coastal 162,785 160,942 -1.1%
9. Georgetown 150,529 160,606 6.7%
10. American 159,316 160,274 0.6%
11. Vermont 156,713 156,710 0.0%
12. Miami 143,845 155,796 8.3%
13. Northwestern 163,065 155,796 -4.5%
14. Tulane 140,965 153,606 9.0%
15. Harvard 137,599 149,754 8.8%
16. Pacific, McGeorge 140,517 149,470 6.4%
17. Fordham 140,577 149,058 6.0%
18. Pepperdine 145,525 148,959 2.4%
19. Widener (Commonwealth) 148,496
20. Whittier 151,602 148,316 -2.2%
21. Loyola (CA) 147,701 148,035 0.2%
22. Virginia 132,182 146,907 11.1%
23. Charleston 147,031 146,230 -0.5%
24. California-Berkeley 143,546 144,981 1.0%
25. Pennsylvania 130,002 144,153 10.9%
26. Santa Clara 136,990 144,130 5.2%
27. Golden Gate 146,288 143,740 -1.7%
28. Michigan 132,473 142,572 7.6%
29. Lewis and Clark 127,064 140,025 10.2%
30. Catholic 144,737 139,803 -3.4%
31. Syracuse 129,249 139,753 8.1%
32. Suffolk 120,993 138,724 14.7%
33. Mercer 125,301 138,575 10.6%
34. Marquette 134,533 138,549 3.0%
35. Barry 149,175 138,410 -7.2%
36. Detroit Mercy 132,245 137,047 3.6%
37. Widener (Delaware) 139,229 136,992 -1.6%
38. Seattle 131,414 136,889 4.2%
39. George Washington 141,346 136,662 -3.3%
40. California-Hastings 129,178 135,886 5.2%
41. Baylor 116,666 135,817 16.4%
42. San Diego 128,477 135,433 5.4%
43. Southern California 137,163 134,673 -1.8%
44. Ave Maria 132,236 134,071 1.4%
45. Willamette 136,099 133,318 -2.0%
46. Loyola (IL) 134,968 133,052 -1.4%
47. Seton Hall 128,100 133,000 3.8%
48. Stanford 128,137 132,970 3.8%
49. Denver 132,083 132,158 0.1%
50. DePaul 125,895 131,148 4.2%
51. Duke 125,406 131,073 4.5%
52. Valparaiso 132,010 131,024 -0.7%
53. Stetson 148,394 130,079 -12.3%
54. Penn State (Penn State Law) 129,772
55. Chicago 144,695 129,636 -10.4%
56. Elon 132,444 128,407 -3.0%
57. Northeastern 134,918 127,406 -5.6%
58. California-Irvine 102,891 125,473 21.9%
59. Gonzaga 121,281 125,347 3.4%
60. Hofstra 143,646 125,300 -12.8%
61. Albany 130,184 125,157 -3.9%
62. Pace 122,180 124,823 2.2%
63. Southern Methodist 124,617 124,723 0.1%
64. Loyola (LA) 117,892 124,143 5.3%
65. Samford 124,106 124,106 0.0%
66. Nova Southeastern 136,450 123,798 -9.3%
67. Roger Williams 128,543 123,332 -4.1%
68. Notre Dame 111,310 122,822 10.3%
69. Yale 117,093 122,796 4.9%
70. St. Mary’s 116,782 122,560 4.9%
71. Western State 120,350 122,315 1.6%
72. George Mason 126,723 121,910 -3.8%
73. South Texas 113,748 121,767 7.0%
74. Oklahoma City 121,476 121,607 0.1%
75. Emory 108,690 121,278 11.6%
76. Cardozo, Yeshiva 121,644 119,294 -1.9%
77. California-Los Angeles 121,066 118,874 -1.8%
78. Illinois 89,852 118,731 32.1%
79. Creighton 126,586 117,980 -6.8%
80. Penn State (Dickinson Law) 123,842 116,717 -5.8%
81. Capital 113,434 116,283 2.5%
82. Dayton 113,486 115,740 2.0%
83. St. John’s 111,959 115,666 3.3%
84. Campbell 90,065 115,128 27.8%
85. Chicago-Kent, IIT 119,884 115,040 -4.0%
86. Maryland 102,183 114,493 12.0%
87. Vanderbilt 122,327 114,447 -6.4%
88. California-Davis 93,498 113,765 21.7%
89. St. Louis 128,764 113,070 -12.2%
90. Boston College 97,006 112,439 15.9%
91. Baltimore 114,725 112,008 -2.4%
92. Washington 105,990 111,003 4.7%
93. Villanova 95,297 110,792 16.3%
94. Richmond 110,380 110,665 0.3%
95. William and Mary 98,487 110,140 11.8%
96. Washington and Lee 109,422 110,067 0.6%
97. Washington University 111,345 109,232 -1.9%
98. Brooklyn 114,953 108,942 -5.2%
99. New Hampshire 121,469 108,896 -10.4%
100. William Mitchell 110,738 108,678 -1.9%
101. District of Columbia 73,175 108,095 47.7%
102. Drake 108,857 107,679 -1.1%
103. Hamline 113,173 107,359 -5.1%
104. Colorado 116,280 107,080 -7.9%
105. Oregon 105,900 106,540 0.6%
106. Arizona State 97,431 106,426 9.2%
107. Indiana (Indianapolis) 96,651 106,114 9.8%
108. Case Western Reserve 131,724 105,854 -19.6%
109. Duquesne 107,496 104,623 -2.7%
110. Pittsburgh 103,461 104,484 1.0%
111. Texas A&M [Wesleyan] 103,500 104,200 0.7%
112. Chapman 148,429 103,956 -30.0%
113. North Carolina 92,475 102,828 11.2%
114. Massachusetts — Dartmouth 105,415 102,603 -2.7%
115. Ohio Northern 107,764 102,414 -5.0%
116. Boston University 107,850 102,329 -5.1%
117. Texas 100,868 102,101 1.2%
118. St. Thomas (MN) 100,401 101,950 1.5%
119. Arizona 95,533 100,902 5.6%
120. Drexel 91,915 100,362 9.2%
121. Maine 101,749 99,617 -2.1%
122. Wake Forest 107,532 97,550 -9.3%
123. Quinnipiac 119,956 97,335 -18.9%
124. Missouri (Kansas City) 96,639
125. Ohio State 97,021 96,253 -0.8%
126. Lincoln Memorial 95,495
127. Florida International 89,815 95,331 6.1%
128. Toledo 96,924 94,295 -2.7%
129. Cleveland State 89,879 93,865 4.4%
130. Michigan State 95,494 93,245 -2.4%
131. Regent 125,158 93,142 -25.6%
132. Minnesota 104,733 92,179 -12.0%
133. Indiana (Bloomington) 89,785 91,020 1.4%
134. Southern Illinois 90,727
135. Louisiana State 89,471 90,609 1.3%
136. Houston 88,664 87,602 -1.2%
137. Temple 97,323 86,999 -10.6%
138. SUNY Buffalo 76,010 86,970 14.4%
139. Louisville 90,195 86,880 -3.7%
140. Southern University 77,067 86,708 12.5%
141. Washburn 83,396 86,621 3.9%
142. Georgia 88,825 86,515 -2.6%
143. Iowa 92,373 86,373 -6.5%
144. West Virginia 84,727 85,063 0.4%
145. Rutgers-Camden 85,054
146. Rutgers-Newark 89,507 85,054 -5.0%
147. South Carolina 84,590 85,006 0.5%
148. Northern Kentucky 82,989 84,714 2.1%
149. Wisconsin 79,373 84,650 6.6%
150. Florida 82,410 84,580 2.6%
151. Cincinnati 76,663 82,988 8.3%
152. Tulsa 99,305 82,954 -16.5%
153. Oklahoma 81,789 82,818 1.3%
154. Wayne State 79,881 82,397 3.1%
155. Florida State 80,375 82,102 2.1%
156. Nevada 99,678 81,579 -18.2%
157. Missouri (Columbia) 67,289 81,149 20.6%
158. Kansas 74,890 80,884 8.0%
159. Montana 71,216 79,304 11.4%
160. Utah 78,725 79,124 0.5%
161. Akron 82,322 78,575 -4.6%
162. Northern Illinois 77,182 77,975 1.0%
163. Kentucky 76,746 77,793 1.4%
164. Memphis 78,030 77,752 -0.4%
165. City University 82,415 77,751 -5.7%
166. Wyoming 67,087 77,421 15.4%
167. Alabama 69,440 74,921 7.9%
168. Texas Tech 84,272 74,673 -11.4%
169. Mississippi 73,003 71,330 -2.3%
170. New Mexico 71,029 69,366 -2.3%
171. Connecticut 70,139 69,195 -1.3%
172. North Dakota 64,818 69,058 6.5%
173. Arkansas (Little Rock) 69,532 68,960 -0.8%
174. Liberty 69,475 68,667 -1.2%
175. Tennessee 66,201 66,939 1.1%
176. Georgia State 69,822 66,637 -4.6%
177. Arkansas (Fayetteville) 63,541 64,901 2.1%
178. Brigham Young 54,203 62,423 15.2%
179. Nebraska 62,985 58,744 -6.7%
180. South Dakota 78,963 57,170 -27.6%
181. Belmont 56,225
182. Hawaii 56,266 54,988 -2.3%
183.

~14

Cornell 135,000 53,680

155,025

-60.2%

14.8%

184. Mississippi College 130,700 38,213 -70.8%
185.

~156

Idaho 92,732 32,114

81,993

-65.4%

-11.6%

186. North Carolina Central 58,061 27,972 -51.8%
187. Howard 24,021 23,197 -3.4%
188. St. Thomas (FL) 140,808 -100.0%
189. Western New England 130,124 -100.0%
190. Touro 154,855 -100.0%

And per this post’s title, here’s the List of Shame: Law schools that chose not to submit their graduates’ debt information to U.S. News, along with their last-reported figures and the year in which they reported them. Thanks to the gainful employment rule, I was able to track down median graduate debt at three for-profits. As I am merciful, I exclude the three Puerto Rico law schools from this count. Nevertheless, 16 non-reporting law schools is a record.

  • Arizona Summit [Phoenix] – $178,263 [2015, median, for-profit]
  • Atlanta’s John Marshall – $161,910 [2015, median, for-profit]
  • Charlotte – $145,834 [2015, median, for-profit]
  • Touro – $154,855 (2014)
  • Thomas (FL) – $140,808 (2014)
  • Western New England – $130,124 (2014)
  • New England – $132,246 (2013)
  • Faulkner – $122,187 (2013)
  • Southwestern – $147,976 (2012)
  • WMU Cooley – $122,395 (2012)
  • Appalachian – $114,740 (2012)
  • La Verne – $112,628 (2012)
  • Texas Southern – $99,992 (2012)
  • Florida A&M – $96,934 (2011)
  • Concordia – NEVER
  • Indiana Tech – NEVER

Yes, Indiana Tech was provisionally accredited just days before the U.S. News rankings came out, but too bad. All accredited law schools are judged equally!

These 16 law schools account for 3,169 graduates out of 39,390, or 8 percent of the total.

Overall, weighted-average private law-school graduate debt rose from $131,195 to $132,207 $132,985 (1%). For public law schools, debt rose from $93,985 to $94,700 $95,047 (1%). The weights are the percent of graduates who took out debt per U.S. News multiplied by the number of graduates according to the 509 information reports.

Interestingly, the unweighted average private law-school graduate debt, which is what is commonly reported, fell by 1.5 0.7 percent; it rose by 1.4 2.1 percent at public law schools. Be wary of lazy reporting: The number of students at high-debt schools matter.

Other thoughts:

  • Last year I didn’t think S. News would report Hamline’s numbers, but it did. Good on U.S. News.
  • Fluctuations: District of Columbia (+48%), Illinois (+32%), and Campbell (+28%); Quinnipiac (-19%), Case Western (-20%), Regent (-26%), South Dakota (-28%), and Chapman (-30%).
  • Big raspberries to North Carolina Central (-51.8%), Cornell (-60.2%), Idaho (-65.4%), and Mississippi College (-70.8%). Please report data better.

That’s all for now.

Click to read the 2014 edition or the 2013 edition of this post.

[Update, 2016-03-28: The University of Idaho College of Law corrected its debt data.]

[Update, 2016-03-31: Cornell Law School corrected its debt data.]

7 comments

  1. US News also lists, at least last year, the % of those taking debt. Is this is weighted debt average per school or only the amount based on those who actually took out debt? If only the latter, would be interested in the former…

    1. The debt amounts U.S. News lists are of those who took debt. It doesn’t include debt-free students. (It also probably doesn’t include dropouts, which is a different issue.)

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