2019: Full-Time Private Law School Tuition Up 1.5 Percent, ABA Excludes Fees

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.

Headline Findings

Separating private law schools into quintiles, here are the increases at the mean of each quintile.

 

In 2019, the median law school charged $48,825 (between DePaul and Pace). The mean was $49,055 (Washington and Lee).

Very interestingly, law schools shied away from the $70,000 barrier, but they’re getting closer. Last year, America’s most expensive law school, Columbia, charged $69,916, but this year it cut its tuition negligibly to $69,896. In 2018, seventeen law schools were in the $60k club, mean-average of $63,849. This year they now number twenty-two and charge $64,336 on average. They account for ten percent of all law schools (203 at the start of this academic year).

Here’s what the inflation-adjusted dispersion of full-time private and full-time public (resident) tuition looks like going back to 1996:

For the last few years I’ve been eyeballing the 25th-percentile public law school’s resident tuition to see if it will rise above the annual Stafford Loan limit of $20,500. In 2019, the 25th percentile retreated from $20,332 to $20,257 (2019.5 $).

Private Law School Changes

This year no private law school raised its tuition by more than 5 percent, which may be due to market forces or the ABA’s new fee-reporting requirement.

By contrast, eighteen private law schools cut their tuitions this year:

  • Columbia (0.0%)
  • Quinnipiac (0.0%)
  • American (-0.1%)
  • Catholic (-0.3%)
  • Stanford (-0.3%)
  • Western New England (-0.4%)
  • Barry (-0.4%)
  • Faulkner (-0.5%)
  • Washington and Lee (-0.6%)
  • Loyola (IL) (-0.8%)
  • Baylor (-1.0%)
  • Western State (-1.1%)
  • Drexel (-1.3%)
  • Regent (-1.7%)
  • Loyola (LA) (-2.0%)
  • Charleston (-2.5%)
  • La Verne (-3.0%)
  • Liberty (-3.1%)
  • Tulane (-4.0%)
  • Howard (-4.5%)
  • Mississippi College (-4.6%)
  • Ave Maria (-5.3%)
  • Southern Methodist (-8.7%)
  • Oklahoma City (-13.3%)
  • Florida Coastal (-13.6%)

And five private law schools kept their costs flat: St. Thomas (FL), Concordia, WMU Cooley, Vermont, and Appalachian. Concordia’s streak extends three years.

Public Law School Changes

Seven public law schools increased their resident tuition by more than 5 percent:

  • North Dakota (19.9%)
  • Akron (6.9%)
  • Montana (6.4%)
  • Louisville (6.3%)
  • Idaho (6.1%)
  • California-Los Angeles (5.2%)
  • Southern University (5.2%)

A whopping thirty-four reduced their costs:

  • Florida (0.0%)
  • Florida State (-0.2%)
  • Temple (-0.5%)
  • City University (-0.7%)
  • California-Davis (-0.8%)
  • Indiana (Bloomington) (-0.9%)
  • Northern Illinois (-0.9%)
  • Utah (-1.3%)
  • Alabama (-1.3%)
  • Indiana (Indianapolis) (-1.8%)
  • New Mexico (-1.9%)
  • Maine (-1.9%)
  • Penn State (Penn State Law) (-2.1%)
  • Maryland (-2.5%)
  • Kansas (-3.5%)
  • Wayne State (-3.7%)
  • Baltimore (-3.8%)
  • California-Berkeley (-3.9%)
  • Nevada (-4.2%)
  • Iowa (-4.2%)
  • West Virginia (-4.9%)
  • Arizona (-5.1%)
  • District of Columbia (-5.5%)
  • Colorado (-6.8%)
  • Georgia State (-7.5%)
  • Toledo (-8.0%)
  • Illinois (-8.2%)
  • Rutgers (-9.0%)
  • SUNY Buffalo (-9.5%)
  • George Mason (-10.5%)
  • Georgia (-10.7%)
  • Arkansas (Little Rock) (-15.1%)
  • South Carolina (-17.3%)
  • Southern Illinois (-22.4%)

And finally, I have eight law schools that kept their tuitions flat: Florida A&M, Florida International, Hawaii, Cincinnati, South Dakota, North Texas-Dallas, and Texas Southern. (I’m excluding Wyoming because its Web site lists a higher charge per credit this year than last year, indicating misreporting to the ABA.)

Editorial

More important than the headline findings, the ABA continues its practice of reporting impractical, opaque tuition information in its 509 disclosures, even though the process is meant to enable consumers to compare law schools and understand what they are paying for. By supplying their costs in an annualized form, prospective applicants (at least the full-time ones) could usually multiply the numbers by three to arrive at a ballpark estimate of the total cost, even if they could not predict future tuition increases.

Since 2018, however, the ABA has published semester tuition data, which reduces the usefulness of comparisons because some law schools supply useless per-credit tuition numbers. In some cases law schools did not bother reporting to the ABA information I could easily find on their own Web sites—information they readily supplied to U.S. News last year. It’s stunning the ABA went from a clear, intuitive, standardized requirement to one that permits widespread misreporting and consumer confusion.

As a result, as a researcher I have to spend more time than before trying to make these numbers intelligible for readers, and piecing them together from multiple sources reduces the precision the ABA once provided in one format. I will discuss how I determined the tuition figures in the appendix below.

Information on this topic from prior years:

********************

Appendix:

The methodology: If a law school’s costs in the ABA’s spreadsheets didn’t vary by more than 5 percent from last year, I left it alone. If it varied by more than that—and it wasn’t clear the school reported its annual tuition or uses an irregular schedule—I looked to see if there was a typo in its 509 report (“509 typo”). If that didn’t work, I’d go to the school’s Web site. If the Web site verified the unusual number in the ABA’s spreadsheet I moved on. Otherwise, I used the annual estimate on the Web site (“Web site override”). If that involved looking at the school’s Web site on the Wayback machine to arrive at its per-credit tuition formula, then I applied that formula to this year’s per-credit numbers (“P/C calc.”). Sometimes that included fees (P/C calc. + fees). In two cases, Wyoming and Inter American, I either couldn’t find their information on their Web sites or derive the calculation, so I used last year’s numbers. I will compare all of these figures to U.S. News‘ results to see if there are any discrepancies. (Last year, I was largely accurate and precise.)

STATE SCHOOL TYPE 2018 2019 PUBLISHED 2019 ESTIMATED % CHANGE OTHER SOURCE
Alabama Alabama Public $23,920 $11,805 $23,610 -1.3%
Alabama Faulkner Private $39,184 $19,500 $39,000 -0.5%
Alabama Samford Private $40,150 $20,394 $40,788 1.6%
Arizona Arizona Public $25,828 $12,250 $24,500 -5.1%
Arizona Arizona State Public $27,584 $14,029 $28,058 1.7%
Arkansas Arkansas (Fayetteville) Public $16,188 $0 $16,604 2.6% Web site override
Arkansas Arkansas (Little Rock) Public $15,732 $0 $13,351 -15.1% 509 Typo
California California Western Private $52,470 $27,080 $54,160 3.2%
California California-Berkeley Public $54,132 $26,008 $52,016 -3.9%
California California-Davis Public $47,722 $23,666 $47,332 -0.8%
California California-Hastings Public $44,326 $44,480 $44,480 0.3%
California California-Irvine Public $45,098 $22,789 $45,578 1.1%
California California-Los Angeles Public $45,600 $23,994 $47,988 5.2%
California Chapman Private $53,124 $27,359 $54,718 3.0%
California Golden Gate Private $50,000 $0 $51,500 3.0% P/C calc. + fees
California La Verne Private $31,208 $15,140 $30,280 -3.0%
California Loyola (CA) Private $57,230 $29,235 $58,470 2.2%
California Pacific, McGeorge Private $51,312 $26,502 $53,004 3.3%
California Pepperdine Private $55,830 $28,750 $57,500 3.0%
California San Diego Private $54,640 $28,115 $56,230 2.9%
California San Francisco Private $49,820 $25,345 $50,690 1.7%
California Santa Clara Private $54,240 $0 $56,280 3.8% P/C calc.
California Southern California Private $64,908 $33,153 $66,306 2.2%
California Southwestern Private $54,166 $27,658 $55,316 2.1%
California Stanford Private $62,382 $20,725 $62,175 -0.3%
California Thomas Jefferson Private $49,500 $25,500 $51,000 3.0%
California Western State Private $43,350 $21,430 $42,860 -1.1%
Colorado Colorado Public $31,898 $14,859 $29,718 -6.8%
Colorado Denver Private $50,942 $26,295 $52,590 3.2%
Connecticut Connecticut Public $30,338 $15,177 $30,354 0.1%
Connecticut Quinnipiac Private $49,540 $24,760 $49,520 0.0%
Connecticut Yale Private $64,267 $66,128 $66,128 2.9%
Delaware Widener (Delaware) Private $50,676 $0 $52,120 2.8% P/C calc. + fees
District of Columbia American Private $56,724 $28,342 $56,684 -0.1%
District of Columbia Catholic Private $51,560 $25,700 $51,400 -0.3%
District of Columbia District of Columbia Public $12,838 $6,067 $12,134 -5.5%
District of Columbia George Washington Private $60,790 $31,103 $62,206 2.3%
District of Columbia Georgetown Private $62,244 $32,274 $64,548 3.7%
District of Columbia Howard Private $34,194 $16,327 $32,654 -4.5%
Florida Ave Maria Private $42,206 $19,975 $39,950 -5.3%
Florida Barry Private $37,430 $18,640 $37,280 -0.4%
Florida Florida Public $21,804 $10,901 $21,802 0.0%
Florida Florida A&M Public $13,676 $6,838 $13,676 0.0%
Florida Florida Coastal Private $46,068 $39,790 $39,790 -13.6%
Florida Florida International Public $21,407 $0 $21,407 0.0% Web site override
Florida Florida State Public $20,694 $9,036 $20,643 -0.2% P/C calc.
Florida Miami Private $52,390 $26,500 $53,000 1.2%
Florida Nova Southeastern Private $40,950 $20,895 $41,790 2.1%
Florida St. Thomas (FL) Private $42,190 $21,095 $42,190 0.0%
Florida Stetson Private $43,880 $22,234 $44,468 1.3%
Georgia Atlanta’s John Marshall Private $43,736 $22,065 $44,130 0.9%
Georgia Emory Private $57,348 $29,531 $59,062 3.0%
Georgia Georgia Public $19,708 $8,802 $17,604 -10.7%
Georgia Georgia State Public $17,050 $7,884 $15,768 -7.5%
Georgia Mercer Private $38,716 $19,592 $39,184 1.2%
Hawaii Hawaii Public $22,392 $11,196 $22,392 0.0%
Idaho Concordia Private $30,343 $0 $30,343 0.0% P/C calc.
Idaho Idaho Public $20,986 $11,130 $22,260 6.1%
Illinois Chicago Private $65,298 $22,217 $66,651 2.1%
Illinois Chicago-Kent, IIT Private $47,644 $24,070 $48,140 1.0%
Illinois DePaul Private $48,166 $24,335 $48,670 1.0%
Illinois Illinois Public $38,118 $17,500 $35,000 -8.2%
Illinois John Marshall (Chicago) Public $47,500 $0 $36,000 -24.2% P/C calc.
Illinois Loyola (IL) Private $48,962 $24,285 $48,570 -0.8%
Illinois Northern Illinois Public $22,180 $10,985 $21,970 -0.9%
Illinois Northwestern Private $64,402 $33,253 $66,506 3.3%
Illinois Southern Illinois Public $22,564 $8,752 $17,504 -22.4%
Indiana Indiana (Bloomington) Public $35,588 $17,638 $35,276 -0.9%
Indiana Indiana (Indianapolis) Public $29,198 $0 $28,672 -1.8% 509 Typo
Indiana Notre Dame Private $58,358 $30,120 $60,240 3.2%
Iowa Drake Private $41,512 $21,200 $42,400 2.1%
Iowa Iowa Public $27,342 $13,090 $26,180 -4.2%
Kansas Kansas Public $22,562 $0 $21,779 -3.5% P/C calc.
Kansas Washburn Public $22,359 $35 $22,591 1.0% P/C calc.
Kentucky Kentucky Public $24,046 $12,361 $24,722 2.8%
Kentucky Louisville Public $21,196 $11,267 $22,534 6.3%
Kentucky Northern Kentucky Public $20,332 $10,673 $21,346 5.0%
Louisiana Louisiana State Public $23,660 $9,875 $23,669 0.0% Web site override
Louisiana Loyola (LA) Private $44,580 $21,848 $43,696 -2.0%
Louisiana Southern University Public $16,530 $5,669 $17,394 5.2% Web site override
Louisiana Tulane Private $56,572 $27,155 $54,310 -4.0%
Maine Maine Public $23,640 $11,591 $23,182 -1.9%
Maryland Baltimore Public $31,954 $15,372 $30,744 -3.8%
Maryland Maryland Public $33,650 $16,404 $32,808 -2.5%
Massachusetts Boston College Private $54,750 $28,470 $56,940 4.0%
Massachusetts Boston University Private $55,076 $27,850 $55,700 1.1%
Massachusetts Harvard Private $64,978 $33,540 $67,080 3.2%
Massachusetts Massachusetts — Dartmouth Public $28,526 $14,330 $28,660 0.5%
Massachusetts New England Private $49,488 $25,444 $50,888 2.8%
Massachusetts Northeastern Private $50,700 $26,400 $52,800 4.1%
Massachusetts Suffolk Private $48,090 $24,705 $49,410 2.7%
Massachusetts Western New England Private $42,218 $21,029 $42,058 -0.4%
Michigan Detroit Mercy Private $43,820 $0 $44,900 2.5% P/C calc. + fees
Michigan Michigan Public $59,762 $30,763 $61,526 3.0%
Michigan Michigan State Private $44,200 $22,800 $45,600 3.2%
Michigan Wayne State Public $32,882 $15,833 $31,666 -3.7%
Michigan WMU Cooley Private $50,790 $0 $50,790 0.0% P/C calc. + fees
Minnesota Minnesota Public $42,840 $21,852 $43,704 2.0%
Minnesota Mitchell|Hamline Private $43,460 $22,490 $44,980 3.5%
Minnesota St. Thomas (MN) Private $41,442 $21,149 $42,298 2.1%
Mississippi Mississippi Public $16,550 $8,435 $16,870 1.9%
Mississippi Mississippi College Private $35,510 $16,935 $33,870 -4.6%
Missouri Missouri (Columbia) Public $21,192 $10,795 $21,590 1.9%
Missouri Missouri (Kansas City) Public $19,701 $0 $20,257 2.8% Web site override
Missouri St. Louis Private $42,154 $21,270 $42,540 0.9%
Missouri Washington University Private $57,446 $29,400 $58,800 2.4%
Montana Montana Public $13,176 $7,007 $14,014 6.4%
Nebraska Creighton Private $40,096 $20,747 $41,494 3.5%
Nebraska Nebraska Public $16,084 $0 $16,423 2.1% Web site override
Nevada Nevada Public $27,022 $12,950 $25,900 -4.2%
New Hampshire New Hampshire Public $37,406 $19,000 $38,000 1.6%
New Jersey Rutgers Public $28,358 $12,902 $25,804 -9.0%
New Jersey Seton Hall Private $54,090 $27,424 $54,848 1.4%
New Mexico New Mexico Public $17,398 $8,532 $17,064 -1.9%
New York Albany Private $47,450 $24,812 $49,624 4.6%
New York Brooklyn Private $60,236 $0 $61,550 2.2% Web site override
New York Cardozo, Yeshiva Private $59,940 $30,869 $61,738 3.0%
New York City University Public $15,564 $7,725 $15,450 -0.7%
New York Columbia Private $69,916 $34,948 $69,896 0.0%
New York Cornell Private $65,541 $67,748 $67,748 3.4%
New York Fordham Private $60,406 $30,885 $61,770 2.3%
New York Hofstra Private $59,214 $30,127 $60,254 1.8%
New York New York Law School Private $51,732 $26,276 $52,552 1.6%
New York New York University Private $66,422 $34,467 $68,934 3.8%
New York Pace Private $48,614 $24,500 $49,000 0.8%
New York St. John’s Private $59,480 $30,575 $61,150 2.8%
New York SUNY Buffalo Public $28,074 $12,705 $25,410 -9.5%
New York Syracuse Private $51,422 $25,750 $51,500 0.2%
New York Touro Private $49,800 $25,430 $50,860 2.1%
North Carolina Campbell Private $41,130 $42,600 $42,600 3.6%
North Carolina Duke Private $64,722 $33,000 $66,000 2.0%
North Carolina Elon Private $38,000 $15,380 $38,450 1.2%
North Carolina North Carolina Public $24,172 $10,571 $24,480 1.3% Web site override
North Carolina North Carolina Central Public $18,738 $6,722 $18,823 0.5% Web site override
North Carolina Wake Forest Private $45,360 $23,134 $46,268 2.0%
North Dakota North Dakota Public $13,024 $15,617 $15,617 19.9%
Ohio Akron Public $22,646 $12,107 $24,214 6.9%
Ohio Capital Private $38,290 $0 $39,220 2.4% P/C calc. + fees
Ohio Case Western Reserve Private $52,070 $26,750 $53,500 2.7%
Ohio Cincinnati Public $24,010 $24,010 $24,010 0.0%
Ohio Cleveland State Public $27,210 $13,877 $27,754 2.0%
Ohio Dayton Private $34,580 $209 $35,003 1.2% P/C calc.
Ohio Ohio Northern Private $29,160 $15,100 $30,200 3.6%
Ohio Ohio State Public $30,848 $31,450 $31,450 2.0%
Ohio Toledo Public $21,896 $10,067 $20,134 -8.0%
Oklahoma Oklahoma Public $20,904 $10,752 $21,504 2.9%
Oklahoma Oklahoma City Private $35,630 $15,443 $30,886 -13.3%
Oklahoma Tulsa Private $25,254 $12,669 $25,338 0.3%
Oregon Lewis and Clark Private $46,370 $24,086 $48,172 3.9%
Oregon Oregon Public $35,418 $17,802 $35,604 0.5%
Oregon Willamette Private $44,380 $22,765 $45,530 2.6%
Pennsylvania Drexel Private $45,270 $0 $44,660 -1.3% P/C calc.
Pennsylvania Duquesne Private $44,944 $23,062 $46,124 2.6%
Pennsylvania Penn State (Dickinson Law) Public $50,582 $26,263 $52,526 3.8%
Pennsylvania Penn State (Penn State Law) Public $50,984 $24,948 $49,896 -2.1%
Pennsylvania Pennsylvania Private $65,804 $33,999 $67,998 3.3%
Pennsylvania Pittsburgh Public $34,834 $17,481 $34,962 0.4%
Pennsylvania Temple Public $27,104 $13,490 $26,980 -0.5%
Pennsylvania Villanova Private $46,536 $23,680 $47,360 1.8%
Pennsylvania Widener (Commonwealth) Private $45,750 $0 $47,130 3.0% P/C calc.
Puerto Rico Inter American Private $16,645 $0 $16,645 0.0% Used 2018’s
Puerto Rico Pontifical Catholic Private $15,738 $7,924 $15,848 0.7%
Puerto Rico Puerto Rico Public $6,144 $3,850 $7,700 25.3%
Rhode Island Roger Williams Private $36,814 $18,762 $37,524 1.9%
South Carolina Charleston Private $42,134 $20,550 $41,100 -2.5%
South Carolina South Carolina Public $29,608 $9,653 $24,472 -17.3% Web site override
South Dakota South Dakota Public $17,000 $8,500 $17,000 0.0%
Tennessee Belmont Private $44,470 $22,570 $45,140 1.5%
Tennessee Lincoln Memorial Private $36,840 $18,750 $37,500 1.8%
Tennessee Memphis Public $19,198 $9,609 $19,218 0.1%
Tennessee Tennessee Public $19,674 $8,348 $20,168 2.5% Web site override
Tennessee Vanderbilt Private $57,558 $29,775 $59,550 3.5%
Texas Baylor Private $62,421 $20,594 $61,782 -1.0%
Texas Houston Public $32,093 $16,590 $33,180 3.4%
Texas North Texas-Dallas Public $9,107 $9,107 $9,107 0.0%
Texas South Texas-Houston Private $32,400 $16,725 $33,450 3.2%
Texas Southern Methodist Private $54,094 $24,702 $49,404 -8.7%
Texas St. Mary’s Private $37,410 $18,915 $37,830 1.1%
Texas Texas Public $35,714 $18,214 $36,428 2.0%
Texas Texas A&M [Wesleyan] Public $31,000 $15,628 $31,256 0.8%
Texas Texas Southern Public $20,418 $10,209 $20,418 0.0%
Texas Texas Tech Public $26,840 $11,295 $26,904 0.2% Web site override
Utah Brigham Young Private $26,120 $13,450 $26,900 3.0%
Utah Utah Public $28,354 $13,999 $27,998 -1.3%
Vermont Vermont Private $48,254 $24,127 $48,254 0.0%
Virginia Appalachian Private $35,500 $17,750 $35,500 0.0%
Virginia George Mason Public $25,354 $11,351 $22,702 -10.5%
Virginia Liberty Private $36,862 $17,856 $35,712 -3.1%
Virginia Regent Private $36,620 $18,000 $36,000 -1.7%
Virginia Richmond Private $44,700 $23,200 $46,400 3.8%
Virginia Virginia Public $60,700 $31,600 $63,200 4.1%
Virginia Washington and Lee Private $49,356 $24,538 $49,076 -0.6%
Virginia William and Mary Public $34,000 $17,500 $35,000 2.9%
Washington Gonzaga Private $40,665 $0 $42,540 4.6% P/C calc.
Washington Seattle Private $46,586 $0 $48,418 3.9% P/C calc. + fees
Washington Washington Public $35,988 $11,985 $37,050 3.0% Web site override
West Virginia West Virginia Public $24,084 $11,457 $22,914 -4.9%
Wisconsin Marquette Private $46,170 $23,775 $47,550 3.0%
Wisconsin Wisconsin Public $23,518 $12,118 $24,236 3.1%
Wyoming Wyoming Public $16,350 $0 $16,350 0.0% Used 2018’s

Fin.

One comment

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