Full-time tuition at private ABA-accredited law schools rose 1.5 percent before adjusting for inflation, according to my analysis of (mainly) data released by the ABA in December. 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.
This year’s data release features a revision to the ABA’s collection methodology: providing fees that law schools frequently added to the headline tuition charges. Law schools often give these fees vague names like, “mandatory fees,” which sounds redundant to “tuition.” It’s a phenomenon I noticed very early in my blogging on the topic.
Because of this change to the data-collection methodology, this year’s data should be taken with some skepticism when compared to last year’s because in the past law schools sometimes submitted their tuition and fees as one figure to the ABA and U.S. News while others did not. Now, hopefully, we can compare just the tuition numbers. Consequently, it is possible the change distorts the 1.5 percent annual increase downward. Indeed, the increases in 2019 look less like 2018 and more like 2014 or 2015: increases at expensive law schools and decreases among the cheapest ones. In past years, I hypothesized that these schools were simply too fiscally crunched to afford tuition increases. Perhaps that trend has resumed.
Separating private law schools into quintiles, here are the increases at the mean of each quintile.