Tuition Data

Full-Time Students Paying Full Tuition Fell ~5 Percentage Points in 2014

Once upon a time, more than half of law students at the typical law school paid full tuition.

But that fairy tale is now over. Behold:

Percent Full-Time Law Students Paying Full Tuition

I’m astonished. Now, only about a third of law students at the average law school pay full tuition. These schools must be hemorrhaging money given how much they’re fighting over applicants.

At the average private law school in 2014, there were more students who received less-than-half tuition grants than there were students given a full bill. It appears that in a couple years, even the half-to-full-tuition crowd will outnumber the full freighters—and this is last year’s data!

No. Full-Time Private Law School Students Per School by Grant Received

Speaking of hemorrhaging money, in 2014, full-time law students paying full tuition only contributed $1 billion to private law schools. This year, it’s probably less.

Aggregate Revenue From Full-Time Private Law School Students Paying Full-Tuition

Finally, here’s what tuition discounted by the median grant looks like at private law schools by the mean of their full tuition quintiles. 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

Percent Private Law School Students Receiving Median Grant by Full Tuition Quintile Mean

Last year, the mean discounted tuition among law schools in the second full-tuition quintile was lower than the third’s, meaning second-quintile schools are discounting much more than schools that nominally charge less. I think it’s trivial, but it indicates pricing competition.

That’s all for now.

Site Update 2015-06-01: Law School Cost Data Page

If you want to know why I haven’t been posting so often, it’s that I’ve been procrastinating! Woo!

I did, however, find time to update the comprehensive Law School Cost Data (1996-) page. Most of the effort is just revisiting law schools’ Web sites to ensure I have their full names correctly. As usual I forgot that law schools have a tendency to place images of attractive women on their main pages, so that wasn’t a total exercise in tediousness.

One thing to note that readers might not know is that even though Lincoln Memorial was accredited after the data submission deadline for 2014, it does have a 509 Information Report (pdf). However, its data are not included in the ABA’s required disclosures Web site, so if you’re into law school data, you’ll need to get that file separately and incorporate it into your spreadsheets.


Law School Cuts Its Tuition to Zero (and Other 509 Report Errata)

Students at Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School were surprised to find their tuition was free for the 2014-15 academic year.

Free Tuition!

Such generosity!

That’s the most amusing error in the law school 509 Information Reports I’ve found thus far. The ABA doesn’t audit the data law schools provide it, so people using them might want to know when it’s obviously incorrect. I’m tallying up the ones I find, but I won’t do so exhaustively. I figure the ABA just runs a program that spits all the data into the reports automatically, so I’ll confine my teasing to the schools for the mistakes.

Atlanta’s John Marshall is one of two law schools that have tuition problems. For those curious, looking on John Marshall’s Web site I get $38,100 in tuition costs, $198 technology fees, $1,340 for health insurance, and $194 in student bar association costs ($39,832 total). This is largely consistent with its charges last year ($39,578).

Another law school with a tuition typo is St. Mary’s, whose 509 report says it charges $33,100 for resident and $33,110 for non-residents, a patent ambiguity that doesn’t make sense for a private law school. Worse, when I look at its Web site, I get $33,010 ($32,340 for tuition, $670 for fees). That’s the number I’m going to go with.

Readers might also be curious about law schools’ enrollment breakdowns. I don’t track the ethnicities of full-time and part-time students, but I did do get their totals as well as the genders and ethnicities of 1Ls, total enrollments, and graduates. These numbers usually add up across the table, but there are a few cases that I’ve found that don’t.

The biggest offender is SUNY-Buffalo, which accidentally totaled its male and female students in its “Other” column (a new addition to the reports this year) instead of the “Total” column. This causes significant arithmetical errors that end up doubling the school’s enrollment over the year before. I have SUNY-Buffalo with 547 full-time students, 10 part-time students, and zero “other” students.

The tables for San Francisco and Minnesota also do not total properly due to problems in the “Other” column. As I have it, San Francisco has 425 full-time students, 102 part-time students, and no “other” students (by enrollment, not gender). Minnesota has 681 full-time students, 17 part-time students, and zero “other” students (ditto).

It’s unclear, but I think most law schools that used the “other” category meant it for gender and enrollment status while these schools had one category but not the other.

Hopefully these errors will be corrected either by the law schools or the ABA.


While I have your attention, I thought I’d spill the beans on where undiscounted tuition costs went this year: pretty much nowhere. The median private law school charged about $200 more than last year in real dollars, but costs are moving up slightly on the very high end while nominal tuition cuts are manifesting at the low end of the scale. I can’t make a clear determination at this point, but anyone thinking that legal education is moving toward a two-tier market—one for cheaper law schools, the other for very expensive prestigious ones—might see this as year 1 for their hypothesis.

Full-Time Law School Tuition Dispersion (Excl. P.R., Constant $)

I suppose now’s the appropriate time to congratulate Columbia for being the first law school to breach the $60,000 mark. 23 others charge more than $50,000 annually, many of them are in U.S. News‘ top 20. In 2010, only three charged so much.

The next chart shows the overall slowdown of tuition cost growth over the last few years and the nominal declines within the lowest quintile.

Full-Time Private Law School Tuition Increases by Tuition Quintile Mean (Current $)

I haven’t done a full analysis yet, but I think only Iowa has seen any direct correlation between nominal cost cuts and an increase in applications (and that’s a public law school). The rest still saw declines.

Peace out.

Site Update: ‘Law School Tuition Data Going Back to 1996’…

…Can be found on the “LAW SCHOOL COST DATA (1996-)” page.

Formerly called ,”Tuition Increases at All ABA Law Schools (1999-),” or something like that, I’ve revised this site’s renowned tuition data page. Biggest changes include:

  • Tuition data for each law school going back to 1996 and up to 2013
  • Percentages of full-time students paying full tuition at each law school
  • Percentages of full-time students receiving the median grant or more at each law school (as stated in the Official Guide)
  • Tuition levels discounted by the median grant at private law schools that aren’t Brigham Young
  • A bunch of carefully sculpted dispersion charts and tables showing changes in law school tuition since 1985 or 1996 with the annual Stafford loan limit
  • And no tuition projections. I know they were popular. I know they gave me easy page views, but I don’t think any forward projection based on past data will be accurate anymore given that tuition increases are slowing down now. Also, the necessary methodology page was truly boring to write, and if anything, you folks deserve more “No Bubble, Just ROCK!!!” posts than me being bored on my own blog.

Don’t worry though, the URL is the same as before, so anyone linking to it will find the same information.

Tracking this kind of information on the back end is becoming harder as law schools (a) are socialized by public universities (meaning a change in status), (b) change their names (sometimes to sound more “hashtaggy”), and (c) contemplate splitting into multiple campuses. I’m sure consolidations are on the way as well. As it is, gathering their exact, full names was easily the most tedious aspect of this update. Easily.

Like, law schools, if you can hear me, please put your complete, full name on your main pages. Not in logos, and definitely not ending in “[law school name] Law” as though your school’s name is in fact the title of a law. To pick on one example, when I read “Wayne Law,” I thought about The Wonder Years taking place in a Michigan law school with Fred Savage, Jason Hervey, and Danica McKellar, the awesomest mathematician alive.

Which reminds me: Law schools, I’m into women as much as the next gynephile, but you do realize you put a lot of women on your main pages. There’s a certain … lack of originality to seeing attractive young women on the law school Web sites.

Wait, what am I complaining about? Strike that.

Okay, I should add—and this is very, very, very important—because the data page is so long (which is by design and I have no interest in changing) it doesn’t load well in Mozilla Firefox. If you scroll down far enough, at some point the screen turns black and the numbers are unreadable. It doesn’t crash the browser, but it doesn’t make the site easy to read. It does, however, work in Google Chrome. I don’t know if it works well on other browsers. Frankly, I don’t care at this point. Chrome is free; I prefer Firefox; whatever; we’re done here.

Full-Time Private Law School Tuition Projections for 2017, 2022

It’s the season for the LSTB’s perennial full-time private law school tuition projections. This is the third year I’ve made such projections, and I always try to improve the methodology to produce accurate and precise forecasts. The biggest changes this year are a large increase in source data—last year I scoured the Web for older copies of the ABA-LSAC Official Guide to the ABA Law Schools (Official Guide)—and I’ve improved the projections methodology.

In previous years, I forecasted future costs via linear regression based on law schools’ previous prices. I chose this model because it offered the lowest average costs, but it proved woefully imprecise. This year, I’ve changed to using law schools’ average annual (numeric) growth rates because it is both more accurate and precise than the linear regression methodology.

You can read about my test of the methodologies here.

As always, I exclude the two private law schools in Puerto Rico and Brigham Young’s tuition for LDS students. Unlike last year, though, I will not try to make projections for public-in-name-only law schools because there aren’t enough data to make reasonably accurate predictions. [Mini-update: The projections are in current dollars.]

Like last year, the “relative variance” column on the far right of the projections table is the percent difference between the law schools’ projected costs for 2012 (based on their 1999-2011 prices) and what they actually charged in 2012. The point is to provide an indicator for distinguishing between outliers and reasonably accurate projections. In 2012, the average private law school raised its price by less than in previous years, suggesting that going forward, costs will plateau. Here’s a chart of the distribution of tuition increases over the years.

Dispersal of Full-Time Private Law School Tuition Price IncreasesDispersal of Full-Time Private Law School Tuition Price Increases (Zoomed In)

Analysis of the Official Guide data also shows that the percent of full-time students paying full freight has dropped considerably in the last decade:

Percent Full-Time Law Students Paying Full Tuition

It might be the case that the real tuition today are less for the median student than a few years ago, but it’s still important for people to know that law schools will continue to depend on students who pay full freight. Because it’s harder for them to choose to drop out, 2Ls and 3Ls are especially likely to be asked to shoulder higher costs as their scholarships are rescinded.

The Official Guide data can be found on the LSTB data page, which I’ve updated to include the 1999-2000/2003-2004 academic years and inflation-adjusted tuition instead of percent increases. Okay, here are the projections. Enjoy.


Another Note on Private Law School Tuition Projection Methodologies

It’s the time of year again in which I offer my projections of how much private law schools will charge full-time students five and ten years from now. This requires a note (or digression) on the methodology I use. Last year, I went to great lengths to justify my decision to use law schools’ tuition data in individual linear regressions for the projections. Two things are different this year:

(1)  Because I scoured the Internet for older copies of the Official Guide, I now have more law school tuition data. My data go back to 1999 instead of 2004. The data alter the projections.

(2)  I may’ve found a better projection methodology than individual linear regression.

The added data speak for themselves, but it occurred to me that another potentially effective way of projecting future law school tuition is by using the average annual growth rate.

This table ought to explain what I’m talking about:

1999 20,980 N/A
2000 22,055 1,075
2001 23,194 1,139
2002 24,413 1,219
2003 25,968 1,555
2004 27,617 1,649
2005 29,229 1,612
2006 30,915 1,686
2007 32,841 1,926
2008 34,710 1,869
2009 36,510 1,800
2010 38,097 1,587
2011 39,697 1,600
2012 41,132 1,435

The questions are (a) is the average annual growth rate more accurate and precise than linear regression, and (b) if so, is it better to project each law school’s tuition individually or apply the overall average ($1,550) to each law school to snuff out outliers (Faulkner, I’m looking at you)?

On average the linear regression and average annual growth rate methodologies produce the same results.

Private Law School Tuition Projection Methodologies Comparison (2012-2022)

So let’s take this to the individual law school level by asking, “Which methodology on average most accurately and precisely predicted law schools’ 2012 costs based on their 1999-2011 prices?”

No. Private Law Schools by Tuition Projection Percent Variance by Methodology (2012)

Here are the average percent variances between the projected tuition prices and actual results (closer to zero is better) and the average deviations of the percent variances as a share of the average percent variance (smaller is more compact, which is better).

  • Linear Regression: 0.2% (average variance); 1,072.5% (deviation share of average)
  • Average Annual Growth Rate: 0.4%; 382.2%
  • Average Annual Growth Rate (Individual): 0.5%; 308.7%

You can see why I’m dissatisfied with the linear regression methodology: great average, horrible distribution.

The two average annual growth rate methodologies raise a conundrum: Applying the average law school’s average annual growth rate to each school is more accurate (closer to zero) while calculating the average annual growth rate for each school individually is generally more precise (tighter deviation). Here’s what it would look like projected out to 2017.

No. Private Law Schools by Tuition Projection Percent Variance by Methodology (2017)

  • Linear Regression: 20.7%; 15.4%
  • Average Annual Growth Rate: 19.3%; 12.8%
  • Average Annual Growth Rate (Individual): 19.8%; 9.4%

I’m pleased enough with the individual average annual growth rate’s precision that I’m willing to adopt it for this year. The only other revision to this methodology I can imagine is weighting the average annual growth rate on recent tuition increases on the basis that future tuition increases are going to be more like recent ones than those of the mid-2000s. I’d like to wait and see how much (or little) tuition costs increased this year before running that experiment.

Because of the change, here are revisions to past projections according to the older data and newer methodology. Note, the revisions do not include more recent years’ data to keep them consistent with the older projections.


Private Law School Tuition Projections for 2016, 2021

If you weren’t looking, you missed it: I finished redoing the law school tuition page on October 3. I meant to finish the private law school tuition projections first, but sometimes it’s just easier to mindlessly key in 2,217 tuition figures than to redo a table.

So, how does one project law school tuition? I just extended the linear regression of each law school’s tuition based on its Official Guide entries going back to 2004. The basis is that past tuition increases are a predictor of future ones. The alternatives are making exponential projections based on previous tuition, using the average annualized growth rate for the last several years (5.32 percent), and arbitrarily knocking two percentage points off the average annualized growth rate (3.32 percent). None of these is particularly satisfactory, but when I tested methodologies recently by using the 2004-2010 tuition figures to predict law schools’ 2011 tuition, which we already have, I found that linear regression was the least precise in absolute terms but it was also the most likely to low-ball a law school’s actual 2011 tuition. I think this relative inaccuracy is important because no one seriously expects tuition to grow as quickly as it did even a few years ago.

As with last time, I’m excluding the two Puerto Rico private law schools and Brigham Young’s LDS tuition. The handful of public law schools that are clearly not taking any state subsidies is listed separately. The criteria for joining this ignominious class of public schools is having an in-state tuition that’s higher than the average private law school that’s outside of Puerto Rico. It’s possible that some public schools aren’t being subsidized but are still cheaper than the average private law school, e.g. Penn State, which charges resident and non-resident students the same. Lucky them.

The only addition for this year is that I’m adding a column on the right side giving the “relative variance,” which is a measure of how (in)accurate the linear regression test was when comparing projected tuition to their 2011 outcomes. I think the lower the better, but anything below -3.0 percent or so is probably too low. The idea is to give readers a measure of how reliable the estimate is, given that some law school engaged in serious expansions in recent years that I hope they couldn’t get away with now, especially Faulkner University, which doubled its tuition in the span of a few years.

These are ranked according to their 2021-22 projected tuition, enjoy:

1. Cornell Law School 53,226 66,800 79,800 1.7%
2. Yale Law School 52,525 64,600 76,300 1.1%
3. Columbia University 52,902 63,800 75,000 -0.9%
4. Northwestern University 51,920 63,400 74,800 0.4%
5. University of Pennsylvania 50,718 62,200 73,500 0.4%
6. New England School of Law 40,984 57,300 72,300 5.1%
7. Seton Hall University 46,840 59,900 72,200 2.8%
8. Cardozo 48,370 60,600 72,200 2.3%
9. Vermont Law School 43,993 58,400 72,000 3.2%
10. Duke University 49,617 60,500 71,400 0.2%
11. University of Southern California 50,591 61,000 71,300 0.0%
12. Brooklyn Law School 48,441 60,000 71,200 1.0%
13. Fordham University 47,986 59,600 70,700 2.1%
14. St. John’s University 46,450 58,700 70,700 1.3%
15. Baylor University 43,573 57,000 70,200 0.7%
16. Stanford Law School 49,179 59,400 70,100 -1.6%
17. Syracuse University 45,647 59,000 70,100 8.8%
18. New York University 50,336 59,900 69,700 -0.6%
19. Harvard Law School 48,786 59,100 69,400 0.2%
20. Vanderbilt University 46,148 58,200 68,900 5.2%
21. Touro College 41,890 55,600 67,900 5.7%
22. Faulkner University 32,187 51,300 67,800 17.1%
23. University of Chicago 47,786 58,000 67,800 1.5%
24. Georgetown 46,865 57,400 67,500 1.7%
25. Quinnipiac University 45,050 55,700 66,500 -0.4%
26. Hofstra University 45,600 56,000 66,400 0.4%
27. Washington and Lee University 41,947 54,200 65,900 2.6%
28. American University 45,096 55,500 65,700 0.9%
29. George Washington University 45,750 55,300 64,800 0.2%
30. Washington University 46,042 55,200 64,500 -0.2%
31. New York Law School 47,800 56,000 63,900 1.0%
32. Loyola Marymount 43,060 53,800 63,700 3.0%
33. Tulane University 43,684 53,800 63,400 1.6%
34. California Western 42,700 52,500 62,500 -0.5%
35. DePaul University 41,690 52,100 62,500 -0.2%
36. Illinois Institute of Technology 42,030 52,200 62,500 0.2%
37. Emory University 45,098 53,600 62,100 -0.2%
38. Pepperdine University 42,840 52,400 61,900 0.9%
39. Case Western Reserve University 42,564 52,200 61,700 0.0%
40. Roger Williams University 39,550 50,900 61,700 2.3%
41. Suffolk University 42,660 52,300 61,600 1.9%
42. Seattle University 39,282 50,500 61,600 1.0%
43. Chapman University 41,873 51,800 61,400 1.0%
44. Notre Dame 43,335 52,100 61,200 -1.2%
45. University of New Hampshire 39,990 50,400 61,000 -0.5%
46. Phoenix School of Law 37,764 49,600 60,900 2.9%
47. Thomas Jefferson 41,000 50,600 60,600 -2.2%
48. University of La Verne 40,732 50,500 60,500 -1.2%
49. Golden Gate University 40,515 50,500 60,400 0.5%
50. Southwestern University 42,200 50,700 60,100 -3.8%
51. Charlotte 36,916 48,500 59,800 2.2%
52. University of the Pacific 41,393 50,600 59,400 1.4%
53. University of San Diego 42,574 51,300 59,300 2.8%
54. Southern Methodist University 42,057 50,400 59,200 -1.9%
55. Northeastern University 42,296 50,900 59,000 2.1%
56. Catholic University of America 41,995 50,200 58,800 -1.4%
57. University of Denver 38,502 49,000 58,500 4.2%
58. Union University 41,845 50,500 58,500 2.9%
59. Boston University 42,654 50,400 58,100 0.2%
60. Wake Forest University 38,756 48,600 57,900 2.3%
61. Valparaiso University 38,086 48,100 57,600 2.4%
62. Boston College 41,818 49,900 57,400 2.4%
63. University of San Francisco 40,544 48,800 57,100 0.2%
64. Santa Clara University 41,790 49,000 56,700 -1.9%
65. Whittier Law School 39,140 48,000 56,500 1.3%
66. John Marshall (Chicago) 38,180 47,400 56,200 1.8%
67. Florida Coastal 36,968 46,300 56,000 -1.4%
68. Marquette University 37,570 46,300 55,600 -2.1%
69. Western State University 37,284 46,200 55,500 -1.6%
70. Loyola University Chicago 39,496 47,600 55,500 1.0%
71. Villanova University 37,780 46,800 55,400 1.9%
72. University of Miami 39,848 47,700 55,100 2.0%
73. University of St. Thomas 34,898 45,900 54,800 10.0%
74. Western New England College 38,240 46,600 54,700 1.6%
75. Pace University 40,978 48,200 54,700 2.7%
76. Charleston Law School 36,774 45,500 53,600 3.0%
77. Michigan State University 35,840 44,900 53,500 2.5%
78. Mercer University 36,860 45,500 53,400 3.0%
79. Loyola University New Orleans 38,266 45,500 53,400 -3.4%
80. John Marshall (Atlanta) 34,810 44,000 53,100 1.1%
81. Elon University 34,550 43,800 53,000 -0.6%
82. Lewis & Clark College 36,412 44,000 52,100 -2.2%
83. Oklahoma City University 35,470 43,500 51,600 0.0%
84. William Mitchell 35,710 43,400 51,400 -0.8%
85. Campbell University 33,910 42,700 51,400 0.6%
86. University of Detroit 36,050 43,400 51,300 -3.0%
87. Samford University 34,848 43,000 51,200 -0.3%
88. Drexel University 36,051 43,600 51,200 -0.6%
89. Ave Maria 36,448 44,300 51,100 5.2%
90. Drake University 34,006 42,400 50,600 1.2%
91. Hamline 34,555 42,800 50,600 1.7%
92. Saint Louis University 36,175 43,400 49,900 2.8%
93. Widener University 36,450 43,000 49,800 -0.8%
94. Widener University (Harrisburg) 36,450 43,000 49,800 -0.8%
95. Duquesne University 33,752 41,800 49,700 0.3%
96. University of Richmond 35,430 42,500 49,500 0.3%
97. Stetson University 35,466 42,200 49,400 -2.5%
98. St. Thomas University 34,618 41,800 49,100 -0.9%
99. Cooley 34,340 40,900 49,100 -8.2%
100. Barry University 33,630 41,200 48,200 3.0%
101. Creighton University 32,494 40,500 48,200 1.5%
102. Capital University 32,683 40,900 48,200 4.9%
103. Nova Southeastern University 33,250 40,800 47,500 3.9%
104. Gonzaga University 34,105 40,700 47,200 0.3%
105. Regent University 32,780 39,900 47,000 0.0%
106. Mississippi College 29,150 38,200 46,700 2.7%
107. Ohio Northern University 32,750 39,300 46,400 -2.7%
108. Howard University 29,131 37,200 46,000 -4.5%
109. University of Dayton 31,598 40,100 45,900 14.2%
110. University of Tulsa 32,056 38,400 45,100 -1.6%
111. Willamette University 32,540 38,000 43,800 -1.5%
112. Appalachian School of Law 29,825 36,600 43,500 -0.7%
113. Liberty University 30,604 37,000 43,500 -0.7%
114. St. Mary’s University 29,406 36,500 43,000 3.4%
115. Texas Wesleyan University 28,790 35,500 42,300 -0.3%
116. Brigham Young University 21,200 30,300 38,100 10.4%
117. South Texas 26,850 32,700 38,000 4.1%
118. Pontifical Catholic University of PR 14,446
119. Interamerican University of PR 14,403
120. Brigham Young University 10,600
MEDIAN 39,550 49,000 58,100 0.9%
MEAN 39,697 49,060 58,175 1.2%
AVG DEVIATION 5,050 6,168 75,24 2.1%

For the handful of public law schools, here you go:

1. CA-Berkeley 50,163
2. Michigan 46,830 60,010 72,302
3. CA-Davis 46,485
4. CA-Los Angeles 44,922
5. Virginia 44,600 58,924 72,995
6. CA-Irvine 43,280
7. CA-Hastings 40,836 50,486 60,136

That’s all I’ve got. Peace.

A Note on Private Law School Tuition Projections Methodology

Diligent readers may know that as of right now I’ve updated about 60 percent of the law schools on the tuition page, which includes tuition projections for private law schools. However, the tuition projections page itself has not been updated. That’s where I am. I’ve decided that before I get to that page specifically, it’s worthwhile to discuss/digress on the methodology I’ve chosen for projecting private law schools’ tuition individually. The reason I’m doing this is that both the tuition page and the projection page have been cited by researchers and academics (the latter page even making an appearance in Chapter 9 of Brian Tamanaha’s Failing Law Schools (FYI: Yale’s projection is actually one of the most accurate ones)), and these types of people might want more detail on the numbers. I think they’re entitled to it, but I also think that casual readers won’t be so interested (you should be), so I’m creating this post separately.

As of fall 2012, there are 117 private law schools outside of Puerto Rico whose tuition the Official Guide tracks. I exclude the two private Puerto Rico law schools for two reasons: one, the dollar’s purchasing power is lower there so including them slightly distorts any averages; and two, neither behaves like stateside law schools in terms of tuition increases. Why do I not include public law schools in the projections at all? Because they are (usually) subsidized by state governments, and the goal of the tuition projections is to see where tuition inflation due to increased spending (including cross-subsidizing students) will go, not tuition inflation due to decreased subsidies. As of right now, I’m also excluding public law schools that are clearly not subsidized by their state governments, even though I sometimes include them in my synthetic, “Adjusted Private Law School” category in other discussions. That may change in future methodological analyses.

This post analyzes the projections methodology by testing it on the last year for which precise data are available: 2011. The results, incidentally, are an interesting lesson in measurement accuracy and precision. The projections are all characterized in nominal dollars to avoid the need for projecting future inflation as well. Arguably, inflation is a minor factor in law school tuition increases, but I’ll not ponder that today.

The Methodologies

There are three potential methodologies I can think of for projecting private law school tuition.

(1)  The current methodology merely extends the linear regression for each law school’s tuition individually into the future based on its Official Guide tuition data going back to 2004 or whenever it was first available. The basis is that past tuition increases are a guide for future ones.

(2)  If one believes that various factors distort individual law schools’ tuition trends, an alternative is to take the annualized rate of average private law school tuition increases and apply it to private law schools individually, an “ecological” methodology.

(3)  Finally, one can try to accommodate both methodologies by calculating the annualized rate for each law school individually and using that rate into the future. In fact, this methodology takes the worst qualities of both: it makes any distortions exponential rather than linear.

The Facts: What Do We Know about Law School Tuition

Before jumping into the analysis, it’s necessary to discuss a few empirical findings from what’s available in the Official Guide from 2004 to 2011 and elsewhere.

  • One would think that law school tuition grows exponentially, but in reality it’s better characterized as linear growth because the R­2­­ statistic (shown below) is closer to one for linear regression than exponential regression. This is why I chose the linear regression methodology in the first place.

  • Even so, the rate of nominal tuition increases has dropped recently, and we know it’s below five percent in 2012 as well. Unfortunately, even the linear regression model doesn’t capture this for 2011. It’s about 16 percent higher than what actually happened.

Comparing the average growth rate from 2004-2009 (5.74 percent) to the average growth rate in 2010-2011 (4.27 percent), the rate dropped by about a quarter, and it stayed at about that level in 2012, according to the National Law Journal.

  • Speaking of distortions, a handful of law schools saw rapid tuition growth between 2004 and 2011. The furthest outlier is Faulkner University, which after obtaining ABA accreditation went from charging $15,000 per year in 2006 to $32,200 in 2011, a 14 percent annualized increase that dwarfs all other private law schools. Six others increased their tuition by more than a 4.9 percent annualized rate, placing them in the third average deviation or higher of tuition increases (the mean is 3.1 percent annualized). These law schools frustrate tuition projections for a few reasons:
    • (1) The first and third methodologies above, which use individualized rates, are certain to overstate these schools’ tuition in the future. Faulkner in particular is way, way out there.
    • (2) Given the drop in applications, I doubt private law schools will go on building sprees as they did in the past. Then again, there appears to be an endless supply of wealthy alumni who are willing to finance new buildings, so I could be terribly wrong.

  • As stated above, it’s very unlikely law school tuition will increase at a high rate again. Although I don’t expect the average nominal price to drop (the prices are very sticky downwards), I also don’t expect them to go above five percent ever again.

The Test

For 2011, all three methodologies produce average private law school tuition figures ranging from $40,100 (linear regression) to $40,300 (individual annualized rate), all high as the actual rate was about $39,700. However, comparing the absolute values of the variances between the projected tuition and the actual tuition provides a clearer finding: the average annualized rate is the most accurate but also the most dispersed.

Linear Regression Average Annualized Rate (5.51%) Individual Annualized Rate
Average Variance 2.2% 1.6% 2.0%
Avg. Deviation % of Variance 27.7% 37.6% 31.3%

However, since we know that law school tuition is not likely to grow as quickly as it did in the past, we’d want to know the actual variances, not their absolute values, because law schools that come in below the projected average will probably be more accurate in the long run than those actually at the average. When we do this, we find just how poorly the methodology I’ve chosen performs in terms of precision (had to say it).

Linear Regression Average Annualized Rate (5.51%) Individual Annualized Rate
Average Variance 1.2% 1.1% 1.6%
Avg. Deviation % of Variance 78.87% 3.3% 2.3%

Here’s what it looks like. To clarify, I counted these using the “FREQUENCY” function, meaning the tick marks on the x-axis mean that the result is greater than the previous tick mark but less than or equal to the current one, so on the red line, 36 private law schools’ projected tuitions were greater than one percent but less than or equal to two percent above what their actual tuitions were, a very precise yet mildly inaccurate finding that would rapidly compound over time.

That blue bump on the far right is, of course, Faulkner, but the blue bump on the far left is Cooley, which raised its tuition by much more than we’d expect based on a linear regression of its previous costs going back to 2004. Here’s a simpler chart to make things clearer, same >x­­≥% rule.

It’s obvious that the individual annualized rate is the worst of both worlds; it’s less accurate and less precise than the average annualized rate. I’m eliminating it as a viable alternative to individual linear regression.

But there you have it: An unpleasant tradeoff. Either I switch to a methodology that precisely predicts tuition will be higher than it will be (though it “rescues” Faulkner and predicts its tuition much more accurately), or I stay with the original methodology that is more accurate on average but more imprecise overall.


Of the three methodologies I’ve tested, none really gives me the results I want, but then again, I have a perfectionist streak. I may run this variance test again when the 2012 tuition numbers come out in official form (U.S. News is close, but … perfectionism), but trying to find a one-size-fits-all formula for projecting private law school tuition increases might not be possible. I have other ideas up my sleeve, like basing the trend on the last three years’ tuition, excluding more recently accredited law schools entirely, or listing the law schools’ annualized tuition growth rates and/or R‘s and highlighting those that are unusually high or low.

In the meantime, though, I’ll stay the course for at least three reasons: (1) I think linear regression provides a reasonably accurate assessment for average private law school tuition overall (half the R2‘s are greater than .993), (2) the numbers aren’t outrageously wrong even 10 years out, which is more than enough, and (3) my original motivations for publishing the tuition projections remain valid. Law school tuition will continue to increase, though not as high as in the past, I think, and it’s important for anyone who cares about the issue to see that. I particularly hope that any potential applicants who see either the tuition page or the projections will see law schools’ Janus-faced behavior, how they can speak solemnities about lawyers’ important roles and responsibilities in society while at the same time collecting rents from taxpayers and showing contempt for their students’ futures.

Private Law School Tuition Projections (Now in Legible Form!)


Here’s a chart of tuition rates five and ten years from now. I present it because I figure people might be interested to see the tuition predictions in an easier format than in the mega-chart. I add again that this is based on linear regression from the data I gathered from various sources and remind readers that if tuition is increasing exponentially rather than linearly, then these predictions are catastrophically conservative.

Just so you know, I counted Widener once and provided both of Brigham Young’s tuitions. However, when calculating the averages, I double-counted Widener and excluded both Brigham Young’s LDS tuition and Puerto Rico’s two private law schools. I figure anyone who’s LDS knows about Brigham Young and no one is so hell-bent on cheap legal education to frivolously convert to a different religion. Puerto Rico, for its part, has a GDP (PPP) per capita that’s roughly half that of even the poorest U.S. states, so for locals, its tuition is comparable to mainland schools. If you’re a Spanish-speaker who refuses to go to a local public school and desires private legal education, then the two PR law schools are for you.

I sorted this by the 2020-2021 school year for dramatic effect.

# NAME TUITION: 2020-2021 TUITION 2015-2016 TUITION 2010-2011
1. Cornell (NY) 78,629.64 65,069.82 51,510.00
2. Northwestern University (IL) 72,121.14 60,782.57 49,444.00
3. New England School of Law (MA) 71,706.43 55,808.21 39,910.00
4. University of Pennsylvania (PA) 71,211.29 59,786.64 48,362.00
5. Seton Hall University (NJ) 70,702.29 57,880.14 45,058.00
6. Yale (CT) 70,003.57 59,251.79 48,500.00
7. Vermont Law School (VT) 69,717.86 55,756.43 41,795.00
8. Cardozo (NY) 69,710.43 57,967.21 46,224.00
9. Brooklyn (NY) 69,461.79 58,035.89 46,610.00
10. Faulkner University (AL) 69,274.29 50,137.14 31,000.00
11. Columbia University (NY) 68,750.86 58,699.43 48,648.00
12. St. John’s University (NY) 68,651.43 56,465.71 44,280.00
13. Fordham University (NY) 68,160.00 57,005.00 45,850.00
14. Duke University (NC) 67,880.36 57,405.18 46,930.00
15. Vanderbilt University (TN) 67,785.00 56,342.50 44,900.00
16. Touro College (NY) 67,450.00 54,200.00 40,950.00
17. Syracuse University (NY) 67,176.43 55,338.21 43,500.00
18. Georgetown (DC) 65,938.93 55,521.96 45,105.00
19. University of Southern California (CA) 65,731.50 56,252.75 46,774.00
20. University of Chicago (IL) 64,721.43 55,063.21 45,405.00
21. Harvard (MA) 64,000.71 54,725.36 45,450.00
22. Franklin Pierce Law Center (NH) 63,995.71 51,947.86 39,900.00
23. Baylor University (TX) 63,951.86 51,547.93 39,144.00
24. Stanford (CA) 63,764.29 54,322.14 44,880.00
25. New York University 63,700.00 55,270.00 46,840.00
26. Hofstra University (NY) 63,177.57 53,105.79 43,034.00
27. George Washington University (DC) 63,047.93 53,523.46 43,999.00
28. Quinnipiac University (CT) 62,499.29 52,229.64 41,960.00
29. University of Detroit (MI) 62,485.71 48,207.86 33,930.00
30. American University (DC) 62,385.43 52,499.71 42,614.00
31. Seattle University (WA) 62,143.43 50,322.71 38,502.00
32. Washington and Lee University (VA) 61,900.36 50,387.68 38,875.00
33. Loyola Marymount (CA) 61,675.36 51,472.68 41,270.00
34. Washington University (MO) 61,079.64 52,249.82 43,420.00
35. Southern Methodist University (TX) 60,850.07 51,414.54 41,979.00
36. John Marshall (IL) 60,400.71 49,925.36 39,450.00
37. California Western (CA) 60,265.71 50,472.86 40,680.00
38. Pepperdine University (CA) 60,185.71 50,667.86 41,150.00
39. Suffolk University (MA) 60,167.14 50,633.57 41,100.00
40. Illinois Institute of Technology 59,732.50 49,711.25 39,690.00
41. Case Western Reserve University (OH) 59,525.00 49,987.50 40,450.00
42. New York Law School 59,382.14 52,121.07 44,860.00
43. Emory University (GA) 59,363.57 51,131.79 42,900.00
44. DePaul University (IL) 59,178.57 49,039.29 38,900.00
45. Chapman University (CA) 58,935.00 49,352.50 39,770.00
46. Roger Williams University (per credit x30) (RI) 58,567.86 47,958.93 37,350.00
47. Notre Dame (IN) 58,563.93 49,684.46 40,805.00
48. Thomas Jefferson (CA) 58,128.57 48,414.29 38,700.00
49. University of the Pacific (CA) 57,968.50 48,942.25 39,916.00
50. University of San Diego (CA) 57,948.57 49,574.29 41,200.00
51. Northeastern University (MA) 57,697.86 49,323.93 40,950.00
52. Golden Gate University (CA) 57,542.86 47,821.43 38,100.00
53. Union University (NY) 56,749.29 48,359.64 39,970.00
54. University of St. Thomas (MN) 56,502.71 46,262.36 36,022.00
55. Boston College (MA) 56,396.43 48,583.21 40,770.00
56. Southwestern University (TX) 56,231.43 47,570.71 38,910.00
57. Catholic University of America (DC) 56,209.64 48,024.82 39,840.00
58. University of Denver (CO) 56,194.29 46,337.14 36,480.00
59. Whittier Law School (CA) 55,417.86 46,683.93 37,950.00
60. University of San Francisco (CA) 55,148.21 46,934.11 38,720.00
61. Valparaiso University (IN) 54,811.43 45,395.71 35,980.00
62. Wake Forest University (NC) 54,588.29 45,551.14 36,514.00
63. Boston University (MA) 54,538.57 47,259.29 39,980.00
64. Tulane University (LA) 54,487.86 46,493.93 38,500.00
65. University of La Verne (Provisional ABA) (CA) 54,400.00 46,015.00 37,630.00
66. Marquette University (WI) 54,102.86 45,201.43 36,300.00
67. Santa Clara University (per credit x30) (CA) 54,038.57 46,699.29 39,360.00
68. Michigan State University 53,669.29 44,309.64 34,950.00
69. Charleston Law School (Provisional ABA) (SC) 53,428.00 44,517.00 35,606.00
70. Pace University (NY) 53,301.71 46,423.86 39,546.00
71. Loyola University Chicago (IL) 52,742.86 45,061.43 37,380.00
72. Mercer University (GA) 52,566.07 44,130.54 35,695.00
73. Phoenix School of Law (AZ) 52,398.00 43,397.00 34,396.00
74. Villanova University (PA) 52,375.71 44,532.86 36,690.00
75. Western State University (CA) 52,353.14 43,626.57 34,900.00
76. University of Miami (FL) 52,235.86 44,826.93 37,418.00
77. Loyola University New Orleans (LA) 51,320.57 43,826.29 36,332.00
78. Charlotte (Provisional ABA) (NC) 51,160.00 42,330.00 33,500.00
79. Western New England College (MA) 50,773.43 43,177.71 35,582.00
80. Elon University (Provisional ABA) (NC) 50,600.00 41,600.00 32,600.00
81. Ave Maria (FL) 50,469.07 43,208.54 35,948.00
82. Lewis & Clark College (OR) 50,442.64 42,745.32 35,048.00
83. Florida Coastal 50,350.14 41,749.07 33,148.00
84. Cooley (MI) 49,865.71 41,327.86 32,790.00
85. William Mitchell (MN) 49,371.43 41,585.71 33,800.00
86. Samford University (AL) 48,993.57 40,946.79 32,900.00
87. Campbell University (NC) 48,858.21 40,329.11 31,800.00
88. Capital University (per credit x30) (OH) 48,762.93 40,418.46 32,074.00
89. Hamline (MN) 48,709.14 40,865.57 33,022.00
90. John Marshall (per credit x 30) (GA) 48,621.43 40,435.71 32,250.00
91. Saint Louis University (MO) 48,571.43 41,800.71 35,030.00
92. University of Dayton (OH) 48,422.14 40,876.07 33,330.00
93. University of Richmond (VA) 48,205.71 41,137.86 34,070.00
94. Drake University (IO) 48,133.57 40,056.79 31,980.00
95. Widener University (DE/PA) 47,971.43 41,385.71 34,800.00
96. Barry University (FL) 47,439.29 40,044.64 32,650.00
97. Oklahoma City University (per credit x30) (OK) 47,172.04 40,196.77 33,221.50
98. Duquesne University (PA) 46,984.57 39,350.29 31,716.00
99. Stetson University (FL) 46,321.43 39,660.71 33,000.00
100. Nova Southeastern University (FL) 45,824.14 38,965.57 32,107.00
101. Gonzaga University (WA) 45,609.64 39,124.82 32,640.00
102. Drexel University (PA) 44,750.00 39,225.00 33,700.00
103. Appalachian School of Law (VA) 44,473.21 36,986.61 29,500.00
104. Creighton University (NE) 44,399.71 37,201.86 30,004.00
105. Ohio Northern University 43,896.86 37,430.43 30,964.00
106. Regent University (per credit x30) (VA) 43,860.36 37,305.18 30,750.00
107. University of Tulsa (OK) 43,210.71 36,765.36 30,320.00
108. Mississippi College (MS) 42,962.86 34,831.43 26,700.00
109. Willamette University (OR) 42,132.14 36,591.07 31,050.00
110. St. Thomas University (FL) 41,980.57 36,386.29 30,792.00
111. Texas Wesleyan University 41,411.43 34,425.71 27,440.00
112. Howard University (DC) 40,896.21 33,157.11 25,418.00
113. St. Mary’s University (TX) 40,510.00 34,055.00 27,600.00
114. Brigham Young University (Non-LDS) (UT) 38,027.14 29,293.57 20,560.00
115. South Texas 37,761.43 32,050.71 26,340.00
116. Liberty University (VA) 37,205.50 32,520.75 27,836.00
117. Pontifical Catholic University of PR 17,360.00 15,912.50 ???
118. Interamerican University of PR 15,690.57 14,928.79 14,167.00
119. Brigham Young University (LDS) (UT) 15,572.86 12,926.43 10,280.00
Average (Median) 55,417.86 46,699.29 37,950.00
Average (Mean) 55,797.33 46,749.70 37,702.07
Standard Deviation 8,897.52 7,201.36 5,852.91

So, in 2020-2021, twenty law schools will be in the second or higher standard deviation, and Cornell will be in the third. Eighteen will be in the lower second standard deviation or better with South Texas and Liberty University in the third.

I’ll update these numbers when better tuition data are available.

The Law School Tuition Bubble: Tuition Increases Law School-by-Law School from 2005 to 2011, Part 3

[Read Part 1 (the setup) and Part 2 (the data)]

Now is the time for modest changes in current federal student loan programs to increase the amount that law students may borrow. –Carolyn Lamm, former President of the American Bar Association, “Law School Educational Debt Has a Manageable Solution.”

And modest changes President Lamm received. Many if not most students can now finance a legal education solely by federal loan money and then elect to go on income-based repayment until the loan is forgiven in either 10 or 25 years, though I’m not an expert on the program nor should its existence embolden prospective law students from discounting law schools’ high costs. The consequences of the oversaturated legal profession and obscenely high tuition levels fall on taxpayers.

Don’t misread me. IBR is a boon to law students who would’ve faced pitiless collectors and poverty. The problem, though, worsens: no force, aside from law students, prevents law schools from raising tuition indefinitely. In the 2010-2011 school year, private law school tuition is on average $37,273.86, with a median of $37,630. In five years, the mean will increase by 23.27% to $49,946.79, and in ten years, mean private law school tuition will reach $54,807.59, which is 45.65% more than students pay today. Only hyper-inflation justifies this kind of expense, and due to state funding cuts to legal education, public law schools will likely rapidly grow to match private law schools’ costs.

The only sincere justification for current law school prices is access and diversity. Lamm states in “Statement of Carolyn B. Lamm, President, American Bar Association
Re: Government Accountability Office Report on Issues Related To Law School Cost and Access

The ABA is committed to ensuring that the cost of attending law school does not become an increasingly insurmountable barrier for many individuals. We are mindful of the importance of making legal education as accessible to as broad and diverse a community of students as possible. In that respect, the ABA urges Congress and the Administration to lift the cap on federal loans to finance law and other professional schools so that all students with talent and desire can attend law school—not only those of economic means.

If accessibility were the problem, why not modernize the ABA’s accreditation requirements? For example, distance learning would obviate the need for expensive teacher-scholars cold-calling students. Or, why not relax the library requirements? These measures would greatly reduce law schools’ costs.

Frankly, I don’t buy legal educators’ claims that we just need to allow students to borrow more and pay back less. It’s time for the ABA and law school faculty to accept the truth that law schools must internalize the risk of their graduates’ failure if the profession is to retain any dignity.


Allow me step back for a moment to discuss my beliefs, as I think they’re relevant. I don’t think law school administrators are con artists who cackle to themselves and twirl their moustaches when the bursar’s office reports that the loans came in. Law school deans would be thrilled to report (and are in the handful of lucky cases) that their graduates landed jobs so prestigious and lucrative that the ROI isn’t in doubt. I should also add that I cherish many of my instructors, I don’t blame them for any of my problems, and I don’t delight in knowing that many will suffer professional setbacks when the bubble bursts. I enjoyed learning from them.

For poly sci junkies out there, I’m an institutionalist, so I think we can separate the institutions’ behaviors from their constituents’. Thus my beliefs take inspiration from practitioner Chuck Newton: law schools are federal debt addicts. And like hard drug addicts they promise the moon to prospective students just to get their next fix. Their governing sin isn’t greed, but a weird combination of gluttony and vanity, and as a result I look on them with mixed feelings of disappointment and pity. What I want to feel, though, is resolve. Resolve to push the law schools into rehab. We must force them off the drug cold turkey.

I can think of three alternatives to the debt financing system we have that will resolve the problem:

(1)  Options

Michael C. Macchiarola and Arun Abraham, “Options for Student Borrowers: A Derivatives-Based Proposal to Protect Students and Control Debt-Fueled Inflation in the Higher Education Market,” Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy, Vol. 20, 67-138 (2010).

The idea here is, after 10 years if graduates have earned less than they and their law school predicted, the graduates can exercise put options and the law school will forgive a portion of the graduates’ debts. The article is a worthwhile read, and I looted it for some sources. I freely confess I haven’t read it in detail, but I’ll give some thoughts as this is a novel idea to me.

I have three problems: First, the put option assumes the law school will exist to forgive the tuition in the future. I predict many law schools will close or drastically contract in the next several years. Similarly, unless the law school hedges itself (either with its own option with another party or insurance) an economic downturn could cause a “bank run” on the law school after 10 years. Second, I think legal education should be more closely tied to a legal career because the judiciary’s legal education requirements have made legal services an un-free market in most states. Some students have no hope of law careers, and the put option assumes that the juris doctor had some positive impact on the graduate’s earning power at all. Moreover, it doesn’t account for the opportunity cost of attending law school. Third, this may have to do with what Macchiarola and Abraham define as “creaming,” but it’s possible that a law school could internally hedge itself by predicting that the students who do well will have compensated for the ones who have not. Again, law is not a free market; therefore, its guardians must ensure that students have a fair chance at gainful employment that puts their education to productive use. I don’t want legal education to be more financialized.

(2)  Human Capital Contracts

I’ve written on the pros and cons of these before. Essentially, we switch from debt to equity. Benefiting private law schools in particular, graduates pay nothing up front, but then pay 10% of their incomes for 10 years back to the law school. I’m somewhat fond of this option, though it has its drawbacks. Read the link for more.

(3)  Vouchers, Free Education, PayGo, or No More Law Schools

This solution does away with the financing and simply concedes that human capital is either a free lunch to be repaid with increased economic productivity and higher taxable incomes, or it’s something people must pay for on their own. Law could become an exclusive domain of the wealthy, but then again I’m unsure the student lending system ever democratized it. Vouchers could be given to prospective students who demonstrate clear talents. Everyone else would have to save money and pay as they went.

The outside benefit of doing away with the law schools is that it looks at legal education as a product, and like all products, improvements in productivity make them cheaper over time. Reducing the barriers to legal labor market entry may make obtaining a law license a simpler affair—closer to becoming a notary than a physician—but along with specializing the profession along practice lines (more a credential system rather than a licensing one), this may be the best solution. Dovetailing with a modernized accreditation system, distance learning, shorter education, etc., the fact that passing a bar exam doesn’t require nearly as much effort as law school does suggests that this solution’s time may have come.


Regardless of the route the profession takes to reform, it’s important for the ABA to do two more things that I believe it will resist. First, even though it’s a political issue, the ABA must advocate for student debt reform, especially because its carelessness has allowed too many of its own constituents to fall into permanent poverty. Second, and I suspect it really doesn’t want to do this: the American Bar Association must apologize to the legally educated and to the public for failing to prevent these problems from arising.