Tuition Data

2017: Full-Time Law Students Paying Full Tuition *Rises* By 0.4 Percentage Points

Discussions of law-school costs are incomplete if they do not account for discounts some students receive, usually merit scholarships paid for by their full-tuition-paying classmates. To analyze the phenomenon of discounting, I focus on the ABA’s 509 information reports’ scholarship data. This information lags the academic year by one year, so as of the 2018-19 academic year, we now have data on 2017-18.

At the average law school not in Puerto Rico in 2017, the proportion of full-time students paying full tuition rose by 0.4 percentage points from 25.4 percent to 25.8 percent. At the median law school less than one quarter of students pay full tuition.

The proportion of students paying full tuition has fallen considerably over the years. At the turn of the century, more than half of students paid full cost; now about a quarter do.

At private law schools, which are easier to analyze because they don’t price discriminate in favor of resident students, the average number of students receiving grants ranging between half and full tuition again exceeds the number paying full tuition. Many more receive a grant worth less-than-half tuition, though their numbers are diminishing.

 

One advantage of knowing how many full-time students pay full tuition is that we can estimate the total revenue they generate for private law schools, except Brigham Young University, which charges LDS students less.

Since 2011, the peak year, inflation-adjusted revenue from full-tuition-paying full-time students has fallen 53 percent. Since 2001, the last year for which data are available, the drop is 32 percent. In 2017, the median private law school’s full-tuition revenue was $4.3 million, down from $12.8 million in 2011 but up 7 percent since 2016. In 2001, the median was $9.5 million. This is quite a decline.

So how substantially are private law schools discounting? The best way to answer that question is by using the sticker price at private law schools as the independent variable, and treating as the dependent variable their tuition after subtracting their median grant (median-discounted tuition “MDT”). First I divide private law schools into full tuition quintiles and give their mean averages. Then I take mean of the MDTs within each quintile.

We find that while full tuition inexorably climbs upward and disperses, the MDTs are trending downward and together, indicating significant discounting. Notably, the MDT at the most expensive law schools is about as much as full tuition at the cheapest private law schools.

That’s all for now; on to the shaming and ridiculing.

Raspberries: I’m giving out three raspberries to law schools for clearly misreporting scholarship data to the ABA:

  • Number 1 goes to Mitchell|Hamline for reporting 482 full-time students receiving scholarships out of … 473 full time students. Those -9 full-time students receiving breaks to their tuition must be truly exceptional. I should add that Mitchell|Hamline made the same mistake last year with only one full-time law student receiving a grant or scholarship in excess of its full-time enrollment. According to U.S. News it had 481 full-time students, which is still one short.
  • The second raspberry goes to Texas Southern for not reporting any median grant information. As a public law school it luckily doesn’t affect any of the above calculations, but it’s still lazy misreporting by a law school.
  • Finally, Regent also has 196 out of 195 full-time students receiving a grant or scholarship, for a truly blessed -1 full-time student. U.S. News has it at 218 for last year.

Honorary mention goes to the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions for the Bar for discontinuing reporting full-time and part-time student enrollment each year. Leaving it to the grant and scholarship data means that there isn’t a good way to double-check law schools’ errors and discontinues a dataset it’s reliably collected for decades.

Information on this topic from previous years:

2018: Full-Time Private Law-School Tuition Up 3.1 Percent

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).

(more…)

2018: ABA Publishes Hot Tuition Garbage Instead of Usable Numbers [UPDATED]

It’s been two weeks since the ABA released its 509 information reports and accompanying spreadsheets. Lazy as I am I didn’t get to the tuition figures until last night, when to my astonishment I found that the tuition data were an excrementitious string of Arabic numerals. Seriously, the ABA has been doing this for five years, and while one or two law schools always fail to report their costs (because it’s, so, so hard to do the same thing once a year) I’ve never seen it publish numbers that were so clearly wrong.

I count seventeen law schools without any tuition numbers. I can understand why Valparaiso and Arizona Summit wouldn’t bother supplying them, but the rest is inexcusable. Even Stanford is on the list of shame.

The next seven reported bizarre three-digit numbers. A year of law school costs $35 at Washburn in Kansans. I have no idea where that came from, but a few public schools (Indiana-Indianapolis, Missouri-Columbia) look like they supplied their costs per credit hour rather than their annual charges.

Then I count 128 (!!) law schools that appeared to supply either semester or trimester tuition costs. There all off by 40-67 percent, clustering at 50 percent.

So more than half of the ABA law schools either supplied bad numbers to the ABA, which didn’t QC any of them, or the ABA messed up. Wow. RIP data transparency.

[Update: Per a reader comment, it appears in the 509 information reports themselves, the ABA now tracks tuition by semester, which will necessitate annualizing the numbers manually. Yes, I’d looked at these but didn’t see that change. However, instead of 128 law schools incorrectly sending semester numbers, that leaves 51 that misreported annual tuition instead of semester tuition. So while 128 law schools appeared to have reported correct numbers, 73 (less Arizona Summit and Valparaiso) did not. The ABA should still do a better job of QCing the data and ensuring law schools are completing forms correctly. I’ll try to come up with a new post that fixes all this.]

Here’s my table of proof:

STATE SCHOOL TYPE 2017 2018 % CHANGE
Arizona Arizona Summit Private $45,284 $0 -100.0%
Arkansas University of Arkansas Public Res. $16,117 $0 -100.0%
Arkansas University of Arkansas (Little Rock) Public Res. $15,732 $0 -100.0%
California Santa Clara University Private $48,916 $0 -100.0%
California Stanford Private $60,270 $0 -100.0%
California Whittier Law School Private $44,370 $0 -100.0%
Florida Florida International University Public Res. $21,806 $0 -100.0%
Idaho Concordia University School of Law Private $30,343 $0 -100.0%
Indiana Valparaiso University Private $41,522 $0 -100.0%
Kansas University of Kansas Public Res. $21,996 $0 -100.0%
Michigan Cooley Private $51,370 $0 -100.0%
Missouri University of Missouri (Kansas City) Public Res. $19,040 $0 -100.0%
Nebraska University of Nebraska Public Res. $15,645 $0 -100.0%
New York Brooklyn Private $50,706 $0 -100.0%
Oklahoma University of Oklahoma Public Res. $20,903 $0 -100.0%
Pennsylvania Drexel University Private $44,340 $0 -100.0%
Texas University of Houston Public Res. $31,021 $0 -100.0%
Delaware Widener University (Delaware) Private $48,920 $60 -99.9%
Pennsylvania Widener University (Commonwealth) Private $44,548 $60 -99.9%
Kansas Washburn University Public Res. $21,588 $35 -99.8%
Illinois John Marshall (Chicago) Private $48,600 $275 -99.4%
Ohio University of Dayton Private $33,739 $209 -99.4%
Indiana Indiana Unversity (Indianapolis) Public Res. $28,631 $547 -98.1%
Missouri University of Missouri (Columbia) Public Res. $21,407 $894 -95.8%
Illinois University of Chicago Private $62,865 $21,766 -65.4%
Texas Baylor University Private $60,050 $20,807 -65.4%
Ohio University of Akron Public Res. $24,214 $11,323 -53.2%
Puerto Rico Pontifical Catholic University of PR Private $16,418 $7,869 -52.1%
Hawaii University of Hawaii Public Res. $23,142 $11,196 -51.6%
Florida Florida A&M University Public Res. $14,132 $6,838 -51.6%
Minnesota University of Minnesota Public Res. $44,066 $21,420 -51.4%
Kentucky University of Louisville Public Res. $21,392 $10,598 -50.5%
Ohio Cleveland State University Public Res. $27,360 $13,605 -50.3%
California UC Los Angeles Public Res. $45,657 $22,800 -50.1%
California UC Davis Public Res. $47,763 $23,861 -50.0%
California Western State College Private $43,350 $21,675 -50.0%
Georgia Georgia State University Public Res. $17,050 $8,525 -50.0%
Maine University of Maine Public Res. $23,640 $11,820 -50.0%
Ohio University of Cincinnati Public Res. $24,010 $12,005 -50.0%
Oklahoma University of Tulsa Private $25,254 $12,627 -50.0%
Texas Texas Southern University Public Res. $20,418 $10,209 -50.0%
Tennessee University of Memphis Public Res. $19,197 $9,599 -50.0%
Illinois Northern Illinois University Public Res. $22,178 $11,090 -50.0%
Virginia George Mason University Public Res. $25,351 $12,677 -50.0%
New Hampshire University of New Hampshire Public Res. $37,401 $18,703 -50.0%
Illinois University of Illinois Public Res. $38,098 $19,059 -50.0%
Florida Florida State University Public Res. $20,683 $10,347 -50.0%
Georgia University of Georgia Public Res. $19,696 $9,854 -50.0%
Nevada University of Nevada Public Res. $26,973 $13,511 -49.9%
Tennessee University of Tennessee Public Res. $19,638 $9,837 -49.9%
Vermont Vermont Law School Private $47,998 $24,127 -49.7%
North Carolina Wake Forest University Private $45,110 $22,680 -49.7%
Louisiana Loyola University New Orleans Private $44,330 $22,290 -49.7%
Oklahoma Oklahoma City University Private $35,340 $17,815 -49.6%
Alabama Univeristy of Alabama Public Res. $23,720 $11,960 -49.6%
Kentucky University of Kentucky Public Res. $23,783 $12,023 -49.4%
North Carolina North Carolina Central University Public Res. $18,533 $9,369 -49.4%
Illinois Loyola University Chicago Private $48,406 $24,481 -49.4%
North Carolina University of North Carolina Public Res. $23,889 $12,086 -49.4%
Florida Ave Maria Private $41,706 $21,103 -49.4%
Virginia Regent University Private $36,140 $18,310 -49.3%
California University of San Francisco Private $49,130 $24,910 -49.3%
South Carolina Charleston Law School Private $41,548 $21,067 -49.3%
New Mexico University of New Mexico Public Res. $17,147 $8,699 -49.3%
Minnesota Mitchell|Hamline Private $42,816 $21,730 -49.2%
District of Columbia Howard University Private $33,630 $17,097 -49.2%
Illinois Illinois Institute of Technology Private $46,822 $23,822 -49.1%
Michigan Michigan State University Private $43,400 $22,100 -49.1%
Ohio Ohio State Universtity Public Res. $30,264 $15,424 -49.0%
Illinois DePaul University Private $47,230 $24,083 -49.0%
New York Touro College Private $48,830 $24,900 -49.0%
Texas University of Texas Public Res. $35,015 $17,857 -49.0%
New York Cardozo Private $58,764 $29,970 -49.0%
Virginia Washington and Lee University Private $48,375 $24,678 -49.0%
Tennessee Belmont University Private $43,480 $22,235 -48.9%
Massachusetts Suffolk University Private $46,932 $24,045 -48.8%
South Carolina University of South Carolina Public Res. $28,858 $14,804 -48.7%
Missouri Saint Louis University Private $41,025 $21,077 -48.6%
Ohio Case Western Reserve University Private $50,666 $26,035 -48.6%
Maryland University of Baltimore Public Res. $31,084 $15,977 -48.6%
Texas South Texas-Houston Private $31,500 $16,200 -48.6%
Texas Southern Methodist University Private $52,586 $27,047 -48.6%
California Pepperdine University Private $54,260 $27,915 -48.6%
Michigan Wayne State University Public Res. $31,956 $16,441 -48.6%
New York Syracuse University Private $49,966 $25,711 -48.5%
New York Hofstra University Private $57,510 $29,607 -48.5%
Pennsylvania Villanova University Private $45,195 $23,268 -48.5%
Minnesota University of St. Thomas Private $40,247 $20,721 -48.5%
New York City University of New York Public Res. $15,113 $7,782 -48.5%
Wisconsin Marquette University Private $44,830 $23,085 -48.5%
New York Albany Law School Private $46,072 $23,725 -48.5%
Utah Brigham Young University Private $25,360 $18,506 -48.5%
Massachusetts Northeastern University Private $49,224 $25,350 -48.5%
Oregon Lewis & Clark College Private $45,020 $23,185 -48.5%
Texas St. Mary’s University Private $36,310 $18,705 -48.5%
North Carolina Campbell University Private $39,900 $20,565 -48.5%
California Golden Gate University Private $48,500 $25,000 -48.5%
Alabama Faulkner University Private $38,000 $19,592 -48.4%
Massachusetts New England Law | Boston Private $47,992 $24,744 -48.4%
Virginia College of William & Mary Public Res. $32,964 $17,000 -48.4%
New Jersey Rutgers University Public Res. $27,492 $14,179 -48.4%
Connecticut University of Connecticut Public Res. $29,410 $15,169 -48.4%
Georgia John Marshall (Atlanta) Private $42,628 $21,993 -48.4%
California University of the Pacific Private $49,720 $25,656 -48.4%
Iowa University of Iowa Public Res. $26,456 $13,671 -48.3%
Washington Seattle University Private $45,054 $23,293 -48.3%
District of Columbia American University Private $54,832 $28,362 -48.3%
Massachusetts Boston University Private $53,236 $27,538 -48.3%
New York St. John’s University Private $57,480 $29,740 -48.3%
Massachusetts Harvard Private $62,792 $32,489 -48.3%
Nebraska Creighton University Private $38,744 $20,048 -48.3%
District of Columbia Catholic University of America Private $49,800 $25,780 -48.2%
Florida University of Miami Private $50,578 $26,195 -48.2%
Massachusetts Boston College Private $52,850 $27,375 -48.2%
Georgia Emory University Private $55,336 $28,674 -48.2%
Louisiana Tulane University Private $54,568 $28,286 -48.2%
Illinois Southern Illinois University Public Res. $21,754 $11,282 -48.1%
Illinois Northwestern University Private $62,084 $32,201 -48.1%
New York Fordham University Private $58,196 $30,203 -48.1%
California Loyola Law School Private $55,110 $28,615 -48.1%
Pennsylvania University of Pennsylvania Private $63,364 $32,902 -48.1%
District of Columbia George Washington University Private $58,520 $30,395 -48.1%
Pennsylvania Penn State University (Dickinson) Public Res. $48,686 $25,291 -48.1%
Pennsylvania Penn State University (Penn State Law) Public Res. $49,070 $25,492 -48.0%
Colorado University of Denver Private $49,022 $25,471 -48.0%
California University of La Verne Private $30,024 $15,604 -48.0%
North Carolina Duke University Private $62,247 $32,361 -48.0%
Oregon Willamette University Private $42,680 $22,190 -48.0%
Ohio Ohio Northern University Private $28,010 $14,580 -47.9%
Mississippi University of Mississippi Public Res. $15,882 $8,275 -47.9%
Tennessee Lincoln Memorial University Private $35,340 $18,420 -47.9%
Michigan University of Michigan Public Res. $57,262 $29,881 -47.8%
Oregon University of Oregon Public Res. $33,922 $17,709 -47.8%
Florida Barry University Private $35,845 $18,715 -47.8%
Alabama Samford University Private $38,448 $20,075 -47.8%
Indiana Indiana University (Bloomington) Public Res. $34,073 $17,794 -47.8%
Massachusetts Massachusetts-Dartmouth Public Res. $27,291 $14,263 -47.7%
Wisconsin University of Wisconsin Public Res. $22,496 $11,759 -47.7%
Florida St. Thomas University Private $40,282 $21,095 -47.6%
Pennsylvania Duquesne University Private $42,844 $22,472 -47.5%
Michigan University of Detroit Private $42,140 $22,110 -47.5%
Kentucky Northern Kentucky University Public Res. $19,370 $10,166 -47.5%
West Virginia West Virginia University Public Res. $22,878 $12,042 -47.4%
Ohio Capital University Private $36,112 $19,145 -47.0%
Idaho University of Idaho Public Res. $19,748 $10,493 -46.9%
Utah University of Utah Public Res. $26,641 $14,177 -46.8%
South Dakota University of South Dakota Public Res. $15,668 $8,472 -45.9%
Texas Texas A&M University Public Res. $28,504 $15,500 -45.6%
Ohio University of Toledo Public Res. $20,004 $10,948 -45.3%
Virginia Appalachian Private $31,700 $17,750 -44.0%
Texas Texas Tech University Public Res. $22,996 $13,420 -41.6%
North Carolina Elon University Private $36,667 $22,275 -39.3%
Florida University of Florida Public Res. $22,299 $21,803 -2.2%
Colorado University of Colorado Public Res. $31,989 $31,898 -0.3%
Florida Florida Coastal Private $46,171 $46,068 -0.2%
California UC Irvine Public Res. $45,155 $45,099 -0.1%
California UC Berkeley Public Res. $49,364 $49,325 -0.1%
Arizona Univeristy of Arizona Public Res. $25,826 $25,826 0.0%
California UC Hastings Public Res. $44,326 $44,326 0.0%
California Thomas Jefferson Private $49,500 $49,500 0.0%
Wyoming University of Wyoming Public Res. $16,350 $16,350 0.0%
Mississippi Mississippi College Private $35,500 $35,510 0.0%
New York SUNY Buffalo Public Res. $28,016 $28,075 0.2%
Puerto Rico Interamerican University of PR Private $16,603 $16,645 0.3%
Arizona Arizona State University Public Res. $27,388 $27,584 0.7%
Connecticut Quinnipiac University Private $48,805 $49,540 1.5%
New Jersey Seton Hall University Private $53,046 $54,090 2.0%
Georgia Mercer University Private $37,962 $38,716 2.0%
California Chapman University Private $52,086 $53,124 2.0%
New York New York Law School Private $50,718 $51,732 2.0%
Iowa Drake University Private $40,612 $41,512 2.2%
Pennsylvania University of Pittsburgh Public Res. $34,008 $34,834 2.4%
Louisiana Louisiana State University Public Res. $23,083 $23,660 2.5%
District of Columbia University of D.C. Public Res. $12,516 $12,838 2.6%
Florida Stetson University Private $42,646 $43,880 2.9%
New York Pace University Private $47,210 $48,614 3.0%
Virginia Liberty University Private $35,782 $36,862 3.0%
Massachusetts Western New England University Private $40,954 $42,218 3.1%
California University of San Diego Private $52,571 $54,280 3.3%
Connecticut Yale Private $62,170 $64,267 3.4%
Florida Nova Southeastern University Private $39,830 $41,200 3.4%
New York Columbia University Private $67,564 $69,916 3.5%
New York Cornell Private $63,327 $65,541 3.5%
California University of Southern California Private $62,711 $64,908 3.5%
California California Western Private $50,670 $52,470 3.6%
Maryland University of Maryland Public Res. $32,492 $33,651 3.6%
Missouri Washington University Private $55,423 $57,445 3.6%
Indiana Notre Dame Private $56,292 $58,358 3.7%
New York New York University Private $63,986 $66,422 3.8%
Pennsylvania Temple University Public Res. $26,103 $27,103 3.8%
Virginia University of Richmond Private $43,000 $44,700 4.0%
District of Columbia Georgetown Private $59,850 $62,244 4.0%
Texas North Texas-Dallas Public Res. $8,748 $9,107 4.1%
Virginia University of Virginia Public Res. $58,300 $60,700 4.1%
Louisiana Southern University Law Center Public Res. $15,802 $16,490 4.4%
California Southwestern University Private $51,890 $54,166 4.4%
Tennessee Vanderbilt University Private $55,083 $57,558 4.5%
Washington University of Washington Public Res. $34,311 $35,988 4.9%
Montana University of Montana Public Res. $12,562 $13,177 4.9%
Washington Gonzaga University Private $38,715 $40,665 5.0%
Rhode Island Roger Williams University Private $34,833 $36,815 5.7%
Puerto Rico University of Puerto Rico Public Res. $7,383 $7,852 6.4%
North Dakota University of North Dakota Public Res. $12,232 $13,023 6.5%

Ugh. Disgusting. Makes me feel bad for the schools that clearly did everything right, like they’re supposed to each year. [Commented retracted for meanness. Apologies to the 128 law schools that correctly reported semester tuition, raspberries to the rest and the ABA for not ensuring consistency.]

Information on this topic from prior years:

2016: Full-Time Students Paying Full Tuition Fell by 2.4 Percentage Points

Discussions of law-school costs are incomplete if they do not include discounts some students receive, usually as merit scholarships paid for by their full-tuition-paying classmates. The topic is salient today because Congress is considering limiting the amount law students can borrow from the federal government. If the PROSPER Act passes, then it’s likely law schools would need to reorganize their cost structures—notably by reducing scholarships and their full price tags. To analyze the phenomenon of discounting, I focus on the ABA’s 509 information reports’ scholarship data. This information lags the academic year by one year, so as of the 2017-18 academic year, we now have data on 2016-17. One new drawback this year is that law schools that closed or stopped accepting new students before 2017 did not provide scholarship data for 2016, so the picture is slightly distorted.

In 2016, the proportion of full-time students paying full tuition fell by 2.4 percentage points from 28.1 percent to 25.7 percent at the average law school not in Puerto Rico. At the median law school less than one-quarter of students pay full tuition.

The proportion of students paying full tuition has fallen considerably over the years. At the turn of the century, more than half of students paid full cost; now about a quarter do.

At the average private law school, which don’t price discriminate in favor of resident students, the number of students receiving grants ranging between half tuition and full tuition now exceeds the number paying full tuition. Many more receive a grant worth less-than-half tuition.

One advantage of knowing how many full-time students pay full tuition is that we can estimate the total revenue they generate for private law schools, except Brigham Young University, which charges LDS students less.

Since 2011, the peak year, inflation-adjusted revenue from full-tuition-paying full-time students has fallen 55 percent. Since 2001, the last year for which data are available, the drop is 35 percent. In 2016, the median private law school’s full-tuition revenue was $3.8 million, down from $12.2 million in 2011. In 2001, the median was $9 million. This is quite a precipitous decline.

So how substantially are private law schools discounting? The best way to answer that question is by treating the sticker price at private law schools as the independent variable, and treating as the dependent variable their tuition after subtracting their median grant (median-discounted tuition “MDT”). First I divide private law schools into full tuition quintiles and give their mean averages. Then I take mean of the MDTs within each quintile.

We find that the MDT at the most expensive law schools is about as much as full tuition at the cheapest private law schools. Meanwhile, schools in the fourth quintile now discount to the level that third quintile law schools do. This indicates pretty fierce competition for students. MDTs at the bottom four-fifths of law schools are converging with one another while diverging from the most expensive schools.

That’s all for now.

Information on this topic from previous years:

2017: Full-Time Private Law School Tuition Up 3.2 Percent

Full-time tuition costs at private law schools rose an average 3.2 percent before adjusting for inflation. The rate is about half a point higher than last year’s increase, but it’s still well below the typical 5 percent rate before the Great Recession. For comparison, 2012 and 2013 saw increases of 3.7 percent and 3.6 percent, respectively. 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 dispersion of full-time private and full-time public (residential) tuition looks like going back to 1996:

Last year I pondered whether the public law school at the 25th percentile would begin charging more than the Stafford Loan limit of $20,500. It’s still one thousand dollars shy of it—in fact, it fell by $200 after adjusting for inflation. As of now, 10 percent of private law schools (12) charge more than $60,000, with the maximum at $67,564 (Columbia). It was only back in 2012 that the top 10 percent charged over $50,000 in nominal dollars, +$10,000 in five years.

In 2017, the median private law school charged $47,071 (between Pace and Suffolk); the mean was $46,843.

Unusually, costs grew consistently among private law schools. If we separate the law schools into quintiles, here’re the increases at the mean of each quintile.

From 2014-16, the tuition increases were stacked towards the high end, which was consistent with the prediction that the cheaper law schools were so fiscally crunched that they couldn’t afford to raise their costs any more. 2017 clearly breaks that trend, and along with its moderate mean increase the growth is distributed fairly evenly among private law schools.

The following private law schools raised their tuition charges by more than 5 percent:

  • Widener (Delaware) (+12.0%)
  • Liberty (+10.8%)
  • La Verne (+10.2%)
  • Elon (+10.0%)
  • Brooklyn (+9.8%)
  • Belmont (+8.9%)
  • John Marshall (Atlanta) (+5.9%)
  • Mississippi College (+5.6%)
  • Mitchell|Hamline (+5.5%)
  • Capital (+5.4%)

I would be cruel to ignore private law schools that cut their full tuition, so here’s that meager list:

  • University of Tulsa (-33.6%)
  • Howard University (-10.4%)
  • Santa Clara University (-3.4%)
  • Whittier Law School (-2.2%)
  • Arizona Summit (-0.3%)

Yes, Tulsa’s one-third slash is the largest nominal tuition cut I can find going back to 1996. It beat Indiana Tech’s (-31.1 percent) last year (fat lot of good that did) and Ohio Northern’s (-26.4 percent) in 2014. Howard’s is fairly significant as well, particularly because in 2016 it raised tuition by 10.9 percent. Big raspberries go to Elon University which extended its students a -12.1 percent cut in 2015 only to mostly reverse it with a 10 percent hike this year.

Nine private law schools kept their full-tuition tags flat (Golden Gate, University of the Pacific, Western State, Ave Maria, St. Thomas (FL), Mercer, Illinois Institute of Technology, Western New England, and Vermont). Barry increased its costs by … $1.

Here are public law schools that cut their costs to resident students:

  • University of Illinois (-7.8%)
  • University of D.C. (-5.6%)
  • University of New Mexico (-5.3%)
  • Texas Tech University (-1.1%)

I note that D.C. and New Mexico both increased their costs last year by more than these decreases.

Overall, the size and character of the increases at private law schools was the same as last year, they were just distributed more evenly among law schools. The phenomenon of nominal tuition cuts is still marginal, and some schools appear to reverse their cuts shortly after instituting them.

Going forward, the thing to look out for is if Congress passes the PROSPER Act, which would cap federal loans to law students at $28,500 and fix a lifetime cap of $150,000 per student. If it does, then I predict that law schools will respond by serious restructuring: eliminating merit scholarships, slashing tuition to $28,500 plus whatever private lenders are willing to lend out, and getting rid of many faculty and their perks. I’m also sure many central universities will use the PROSPER Act as an opportunity to shut down their money-losing law schools.

Of course, this all assumes that the Bennett hypothesis is true, but AccessLex-funded research falsified it, so we all know law schools will raise their prices forever.

Full-time tuition costs don’t necessarily indicate what students are actually charged, but they do show how much rent law schools can extract from the government’s loan programs.

Information on this topic from prior years:

2015: Full-Time Law Students Paying Full Tuition Fell ~5 Percentage Points (Again)

As with 2014, the proportion of full-time law students paying full freight fell substantially at the average law school not in Puerto Rico. In 2015, the last year for which data are available, the average was 28.1 percent, down from 32.9 percent. In 2011, the average was 20 points higher.

percent-full-time-law-students-paying-full-tuition

A decade ago, more than half of law students paid full tuition; now, not even one in three does.

At the average private law school, nearly as many students who received half-to-full tuition grants paid nothing at all. Those numbers might have converged this year, but the crunch in students has decelerated, so they may have leveled off. Nevertheless, law schools must be losing a lot of money.

no-full-time-private-law-school-students-per-school-by-grant-received

Indeed, in 2015, revenue from full-time students paying full tuition is now half its peak in 2011. At freestanding private law schools, including the for-profits, it’s fallen to one third. In 2001 the median private law school made $9.0 million on these students. In 2015, it took in $4.3 million.

aggregate-revenue-from-full-time-private-law-school-students-paying-full-tuition

So how substantially are law schools discounting? Here’s what tuition discounted by the median grant looks like at private law schools by the mean of their full tuition quintiles. It’s a mouthful, but the idea here is to set full tuition as the independent variable and let the discounted tuition float.

full-time-private-law-school-tuition-and-median-discounted-tuition-by-tuition-quintile-mean

We find that law schools charging in the fourth quintile of full tuition (~$49,000) discount so much that they’re cheaper than the median discounted tuition of the third full-tuition quintile (~$45,000). Meanwhile, the gap between private law schools in the fifth quintile (~$56,500) and the rest is widening. What’s also obvious is how much more law schools are willing to charge students paying full freight.

Information on this topic from previous years:

2016: Full-Time Private Law School Tuition Up 2.7 Percent

Full-time tuition costs at private law schools rose an average 2.7 percent before adjusting for inflation. The rate is about 1 percent higher than the last two years’ increases, but it’s still below the typical 5 percent rate before the Great Recession. 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 market’s prices.

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

full-time-law-school-tuition-dispersion-excl-p-r-constant

I don’t have much to say about this that I haven’t before, but it appears that the 25th percentile public law school will soon charge more than the Stafford loan limit, which has been set at $20,500 for several years now. The limit is important because it indicates when students will need to rely on other funds to pay for their legal educations, including Grad PLUS loans, which can also go to students’ living expenses. Since 1996, Stafford loans have lost about a third of their value to inflation.

Notably costs are still widening, so after chopping up the law schools into quintiles, here’s the increases for the mean of each quintile.

full-time-private-law-school-tuition-increases-by-tuition-quintile-mean-current

The chart depicts at least three straight years of top-heavy tuition increases: The more expensive law schools are becoming more expensive—4 percent more among the top 20 percent of law schools. Two years ago, Columbia Law School became the first to charge more than $60,000, and it now costs more than $65,000. This year six other law schools joined the 60k club: NYU, Cornell, Penn, Chicago, Harvard, and USC. These seven schools raised their full-time costs by 3.8 percent on average, but theirs weren’t the largest increases. The following nine law schools raised their full-time tuition by more than 5 percent: Loyola (Calif.) (+5.4%), Michigan State (+5.5%), WMU Cooley (+6.1%), Faulkner (+6.6%), Lincoln Memorial (+6.8%), Tulsa (+7.0%), Charlotte (+7.1%), Willamette (+9.6%), and Howard (+10.9%).

It would be unfair of me not to acknowledge the handful of private law schools that cut their full-time charges: Campbell (-0.4%), Capital (-5.2%), Dayton (-6.4%), and Indiana Tech (-31.1%). Fourteen private law schools held their costs flat: New York Law School, Chicago-Kent, Brooklyn, Suffolk, Loyola (La.), Western State, Ave Maria, Western New England, Detroit, Valparaiso, Barry, Oklahoma City, Mississippi College, and Elon.

Yes, I notice that two failing law schools, Indiana Tech and Charlotte, both dealt with their incipient problems by slashing and hiking costs, respectively. For Indiana Tech, it didn’t translate into more matriculants.

Finally, 19 public law schools cut or held their residential tuition with the two most notable ones being Texas A&M (-15.4%) and UC Hastings (-9.1%). Akron, Cincinnati, and Toledo also didn’t raise their tuition, so along with Capital and Dayton that makes five of nine Ohio law schools that stand out in tuition control.

Full-time tuition costs don’t necessarily indicate what students are actually charged, but they do show how much rent law schools can extract from the government’s loan programs. For many law schools that ability is fading.

Information on this topic from prior years: