Despite arbitrary data meddling by the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar and significant misreporting by law schools, I will estimate changes in annual (as in what people care about and what the ABA no longer collects) full-time law-school tuition for 2018. The appendix at the end of the post will summarize how I arrived at my tuition figures. However, I’m still disgusted by how the law schools and the ABA have handled this year’s data collection. On with the show:
Full-time tuition costs at private law schools not in Puerto Rico rose an average 3.1 percent before adjusting for inflation. The rate is about the same as last year’s increase, but it’s still well below the typical 5 percent rate before the Great Recession. For seven years now, the average increase has been below 4 percent. I focus on private law-school tuition because public law schools receive varying degrees of state subsidies, so they do not reflect the already distorted legal-education market’s prices.
Here’s what the inflation-adjusted dispersion of full-time private and full-time public (residential) tuition looks like going back to 1996:
For the last few years I’ve been eyeballing the 25th-percentile public law school’s residential tuition to see if it will rise above the annual Stafford Loan limit of $20,500. In 2018 it fell not even $200 shy of that symbolic line of unaffordability. By my estimates, 16 out of 117 private law schools charge more than $60,000. Ever the leader, Columbia was $84 short of charging $70,000. Next year it will likely have raised its costs by $20,000 in ten years.
In 2018, the median private law school charged $48,166 (DePaul); the mean was $48,383 (between John Marshall (Chicago) and Vermont).