17 Law Schools Didn’t Report Graduate Debt to U.S. News (’18)

Each year U.S. News & World Report lists law schools by the average indebtedness of their graduates. Importantly, the figures exclude accrued interest, which can be quite considerable. However, these numbers 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, ranked by the highest average debt of the most recent graduating class. 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 and the percent change to draw attention to wide swings and encourage ridicule of law schools that cannot follow basic survey directions, but I welcome corrections. Out of compassion, I omit the three law schools in Puerto Rico.

# SCHOOL 2017 DEBT 2018 DEBT PCT. CHANGE
1. Southwestern $212,576 N/A
2. Thomas Jefferson $198,962 $196,607 -1.2%
3. San Francisco $180,799 $174,825 -3.3%
4. New York University $170,955 $167,441 -2.1%
5. American $169,107 $167,039 -1.2%
6. George Washington $156,167 $166,650 6.7%
7. Georgetown $162,739 $166,323 2.2%
8. John Marshall (Chicago) $153,520 $165,131 7.6%
9. Harvard $162,672 $164,331 1.0%
10. Columbia $158,348 $163,736 3.4%
11. Chicago $134,853 $160,099 18.7%
12. Pennsylvania $148,879 $159,059 6.8%
13. Virginia $142,906 $156,437 9.5%
14. Santa Clara $150,627 $155,981 3.6%
15. St. Thomas (FL) $155,836 N/A
16. Nova Southeastern $151,505 $151,344 -0.1%
17. Pepperdine $157,527 $148,165 -5.9%
18. Catholic $149,158 $147,377 -1.2%
19. Fordham $144,168 $146,217 1.4%
20. Pacific, McGeorge $144,797 $145,403 0.4%
21. Tulane $127,113 $145,315 14.3%
22. Chapman $141,533 $144,718 2.3%
23. Marquette $148,253 $143,672 -3.1%
24. New York Law School $154,629 $142,715 -7.7%
25. Miami $137,101 $141,046 2.9%
26. Widener (Commonwealth) $141,141 $141,044 -0.1%
27. California Western $143,592 $139,211 -3.1%
28. Loyola (CA) $145,915 $138,926 -4.8%
29. California-Berkeley $143,049 $137,771 -3.7%
30. Hofstra $131,957 $136,811 3.7%
31. Seattle $148,896 $136,396 -8.4%
32. Willamette $124,350 $136,261 9.6%
33. Stetson $131,200 $135,698 3.4%
34. Duke $132,002 $134,948 2.2%
35. DePaul $122,290 $133,268 9.0%
36. Michigan $125,199 $133,158 6.4%
37. Baylor $91,679 $133,148 45.2%
38. Southern Methodist $131,711 $132,600 0.7%
39. Stanford $131,745 $131,997 0.2%
40. Southern California $122,192 $131,148 7.3%
41. Vermont $138,991 $129,611 -6.7%
42. Cornell $148,955 $128,757 -13.6%
43. Lewis and Clark $132,419 $128,497 -3.0%
44. Ave Maria $128,079 N/A
45. Northwestern $136,532 $127,458 -6.6%
46. California-Hastings $146,150 $126,829 -13.2%
47. Detroit Mercy $131,421 $126,454 -3.8%
48. Faulkner $96,582 $126,097 30.6%
49. Charleston $143,105 $125,531 -12.3%
50. Belmont $126,272 $125,489 -0.6%
51. Campbell $96,215 $123,757 28.6%
52. California-Los Angeles $120,980 $123,594 2.2%
53. Widener (Delaware) $119,648 $123,575 3.3%
54. St. Mary’s $116,635 $123,377 5.8%
55. Elon $135,740 $123,267 -9.2%
56. Notre Dame $123,210 $122,814 -0.3%
57. Roger Williams $115,869 $122,636 5.8%
58. Samford $112,662 $121,239 7.6%
59. Vanderbilt $117,992 $120,622 2.2%
60. Oklahoma City $123,256 $120,603 -2.2%
61. South Texas-Houston $123,715 $119,841 -3.1%
62. Emory $127,541 $119,614 -6.2%
63. Mississippi College $121,000 $119,500 -1.2%
64. San Diego $102,296 $119,264 16.6%
65. Seton Hall $131,182 $117,034 -10.8%
66. Regent $111,268 $116,965 5.1%
67. Mercer $134,317 $116,718 -13.1%
68. Brooklyn $118,519 $116,352 -1.8%
69. Cardozo, Yeshiva $114,085 $116,066 1.7%
70. Creighton $118,552 $115,643 -2.5%
71. Suffolk $118,725 $114,643 -3.4%
72. Syracuse $101,983 $114,523 12.3%
73. California-Irvine $112,429 $112,766 0.3%
74. Loyola (IL) $137,342 $112,367 -18.2%
75. Drake $125,438 $111,961 -10.7%
76. Boston University $110,082 $111,946 1.7%
77. St. John’s $110,373 $111,652 1.2%
78. Gonzaga $104,892 $110,602 5.4%
79. Maryland $116,837 $109,984 -5.9%
80. Wyoming $82,749 $107,891 30.4%
81. Pace $108,380 $106,987 -1.3%
82. Capital $116,612 $105,868 -9.2%
83. Chicago-Kent, IIT $107,540 $105,042 -2.3%
84. Duquesne $103,633 $103,925 0.3%
85. Pittsburgh $97,239 $103,741 6.7%
86. Loyola (LA) $117,746 $103,669 -12.0%
87. Baltimore $111,861 $103,106 -7.8%
88. Western New England $125,143 $102,770 -17.9%
89. Massachusetts — Dartmouth $107,227 $102,245 -4.6%
90. Washington $107,975 $101,913 -5.6%
91. Albany $110,225 $100,386 -8.9%
92. Washington and Lee $98,512 $99,559 1.1%
93. Minnesota $97,910 $99,510 1.6%
94. Concordia $90,607 $99,351 9.7%
95. Villanova $87,786 $99,140 12.9%
96. South Carolina $99,862 $99,118 -0.7%
97. George Mason $106,642 $98,996 -7.2%
98. William and Mary $103,318 $98,850 -4.3%
99. Mitchell|Hamline $89,469 $98,371 9.9%
100. Colorado $104,338 $98,290 -5.8%
101. Washington University $93,141 $98,058 5.3%
102. Indiana (Indianapolis) $96,941 $97,062 0.1%
103. Florida International $106,596 $96,767 -9.2%
104. Case Western Reserve $84,436 $96,529 14.3%
105. Wake Forest $77,712 $96,244 23.8%
106. Northern Illinois $88,081 $95,247 8.1%
107. Northeastern $92,051 $94,631 2.8%
108. Texas A&M [Wesleyan] $122,562 $94,447 -22.9%
109. Southern University $90,211 $94,447 4.7%
110. Florida $88,409 $94,390 6.8%
111. Arizona State $87,612 $93,524 6.7%
112. Ohio State $90,638 $92,993 2.6%
113. Idaho $89,018 $92,924 4.4%
114. Western State $90,302 $92,863 2.8%
115. Indiana (Bloomington) $93,978 $92,800 -1.3%
116. Quinnipiac $101,581 $92,704 -8.7%
117. Maine $90,636 $92,652 2.2%
118. Missouri (Kansas City) $97,419 $92,026 -5.5%
119. Texas $100,312 $91,978 -8.3%
120. Hawaii $84,295 $91,368 8.4%
121. St. Louis $112,142 $91,149 -18.7%
122. Michigan State $94,540 $90,498 -4.3%
123. Utah $79,813 $90,488 13.4%
124. Oregon $81,211 $89,682 10.4%
125. SUNY Buffalo $95,149 $88,687 -6.8%
126. Memphis $79,363 $87,984 10.9%
127. Ohio Northern $94,119 $87,066 -7.5%
128. North Carolina $106,514 $86,019 -19.2%
129. Richmond $101,296 $85,487 -15.6%
130. Penn State (Penn State Law) $93,406 $85,056 -8.9%
131. Connecticut $75,383 $84,379 11.9%
132. California-Davis $104,034 $84,241 -19.0%
133. New Mexico $79,199 $84,164 6.3%
134. Houston $92,899 $83,943 -9.6%
135. Nevada $84,386 $83,837 -0.7%
136. Louisiana State $85,703 $83,026 -3.1%
137. Toledo $81,626 $82,511 1.1%
138. West Virginia $82,542 $82,326 -0.3%
139. Alabama $75,373 $81,738 8.4%
140. Drexel $91,744 $81,575 -11.1%
141. Louisville $86,110 $81,471 -5.4%
142. St. Thomas (MN) $77,875 $81,440 4.6%
143. Kansas $72,617 $81,290 11.9%
144. Oklahoma $84,057 $81,042 -3.6%
145. Boston College $112,868 $80,113 -29.0%
146. Wisconsin $68,050 $79,455 16.8%
147. Texas Tech $82,355 $78,800 -4.3%
148. Temple $73,589 $78,725 7.0%
149. New Hampshire $95,312 $78,586 -17.5%
150. Akron $70,670 $78,465 11.0%
151. Montana $71,604 $78,056 9.0%
152. Georgia $82,191 $77,269 -6.0%
153. Howard $76,703 N/A
154. Cleveland State $84,764 $76,448 -9.8%
155. Illinois $87,559 $76,405 -12.7%
156. Tulsa $73,987 $75,861 2.5%
157. Arizona $85,519 $75,558 -11.6%
158. Mississippi $64,644 $74,005 14.5%
159. Penn State (Dickinson Law) $81,718 $73,445 -10.1%
160. Southern Illinois $96,722 $73,064 -24.5%
161. Washburn $78,287 $72,602 -7.3%
162. Florida State $75,899 $72,534 -4.4%
163. Iowa $73,230 $72,465 -1.0%
164. Arkansas (Little Rock) $71,969 $71,014 -1.3%
165. Tennessee $65,107 $70,934 8.9%
166. Missouri (Columbia) $66,944 $69,462 3.8%
167. North Dakota $65,993 $68,743 4.2%
168. City University $76,302 $68,355 -10.4%
169. Arkansas (Fayetteville) $68,924 $66,659 -3.3%
170. Wayne State $77,993 $66,521 -14.7%
171. North Carolina Central $63,300 $64,800 2.4%
172. Cincinnati $67,028 $63,728 -4.9%
173. Florida A&M $61,500 $61,500 0.0%
174. Liberty $77,077 $61,295 -20.5%
175. South Dakota $58,177 $59,789 2.8%
176. Nebraska $57,992 $59,442 2.5%
177. Brigham Young $53,237 $56,903 6.9%
178. Rutgers $55,023 N/A
179. Georgia State $56,710 $50,902 -10.2%
180. Florida Coastal $138,204 $45,500 -67.1%
181. Arizona Summit [Phoenix] $190,842 N/A
182. Golden Gate $158,857 N/A
183. Denver $138,513 N/A
184. Valparaiso $128,221 N/A
185. Atlanta’s John Marshall $120,744 N/A
186. Dayton $114,363 N/A
187. Yale $111,494 N/A
188. Lincoln Memorial $83,526 N/A
189. Kentucky $82,905 N/A
10TH PERCENTILE $73,589 $72,465 -12.3%
25TH PERCENTILE $84,764 $83,026 -6.6%
MEDIAN $106,555 $101,150 -0.3%
75TH PERCENTILE $131,200 $127,458 5.4%
90TH PERCENTILE $148,896 $147,377 10.9%
MEAN $108,713 $107,093 -0.6%

(U.S. News‘ debt rankings can be found here.)

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 at all, along with their last-reported figures and the year in which they reported them. As I am merciful, I exclude the three Puerto Rico law schools from this count. This year, I extend my clemency to Whittier, Valparaiso, and even Arizona Summit, which no longer accept new law students.

  • Golden Gate – $158,857 (2016)
  • Touro – $154,855 (2013)
  • Barry – $151,479 (2015)
  • Denver – $138,513 (2016)
  • New England – $132,246 (2012)
  • WMU Cooley – $122,395 (2011)
  • Atlanta’s John Marshall – $120,744 (2016)
  • Appalachian – $114,740 (2011)
  • Dayton – $114,363 (2016)
  • La Verne – $112,628 (2011)
  • Yale – $111,494 (2016)
  • District of Columbia – $105,330 (2015)
  • Texas Southern – $99,992 (2011)
  • Lincoln Memorial – $83,526 (2016)
  • Kentucky – $82,905 (2016)
  • Northern Kentucky – $74,190 (2015)
  • North Texas-Dallas – NEVER

These 17 law schools account for 2,433 graduates out of 33,939, or 7 percent of the total.

Compared to the graduating class from two years earlier, weighted-average private-law-school graduate debt fell from $130,536 to $129,928 (0%). For public law schools, debt fell from $92,897 to $90,095 (-3%). 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.The unweighted averages, which alas are what’s commonly reported, fell as well. At private law schools, it went down from $123,785 to $122,924 (-1%). That’s $86,854 from $88,680 (-2%) at public law schools. These declines can be attributed to graduates borrowing less and not the percentages of graduates borrowing at each school. This is good news. However, there might also be an unseen composition effect of fewer people matriculating to high-debt schools. (By unseen, I mean, I’m not going to check.)

The class of ’18 looks disappointingly similar to ’17, and law students still take out $20,000 to $30,000 more in debt than they did a decade ago. Debt levels have fallen by roughly $4,500 since ’15.

Finally, the observations:

  • Congratulations to Southwestern, St. Thomas (FL), Ave Maria, Howard, and Rutgers for reporting debt figures this year, particularly to Southwestern for admitting its graduates borrow an alarmingly high $213,000. I have in my notes that Rutgers reported $38,000 last year, but U.S. News apparently removed it when I rechecked the numbers a few months ago.
  • A bunch of law schools bounced back from misreporting their graduate data last year, even familiar faces from last year’s List of Shame. They account for some big swings: Baylor (+45%), Faulkner (+31%), Wyoming (+30%), Campbell (+29%), and Wake Forest (+24%). There are others, but these law schools’ debt figures align more with their reporting from two years ago rather than last year.
  • And finally the big raspberries: Florida Coastal (-67%), Boston College (-29%), Southern Illinois (-25%), Texas A&M [Wesleyan] (-23%), and Liberty (-21%). Again, it’s likely there’s more misreporting further down, but I cut it off at twenty percent.

Conclusion: As always, it’s silly that so many law schools do not answer U.S. News‘ debt survey correctly, if at all—and that the magazine doesn’t bother to compare its data to prior years’ to ask for corrections. Nevertheless, the number of non-reports was flat this year, though there were some swap-outs, e.g. Yale. The record of seventeen non-reports holds, so at least it didn’t break again.

Entries on this topic from prior years:

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