Law Schools Surpass Six-Figure Cost of Attendance Mark

Law school graduation hat on assorted hundred dollar bills
By Joseph Fawbush, Esq. on July 11, 2019 9:47 AM

Learning is priceless, or at least it might as well be if you go to law school at Columbia or the University of Chicago. For the first time, these two law schools will cost six figures per year to attend, including tuition, fees, and room and board.

The sticker price at Columbia is $75,898. Students must add $23,947 in living expenses for 9 months, including $1,582 per month in rent, for a total of $101,345. By comparison, you can practically steal your education from the University of Chicago for only $100,080 per year.

Students entering their first year at Columbia can expect to pay approximately $370,000 for their JDs, accounting for interest and origination fees on loans.

To be fair, Columbia and the University of Chicago are not outliers; any T14 school is going to cost a pile of money. Cornell estimates its annual cost of attendance at $93,815. Even at the University of Michigan, a public school with a lower cost of living, students will pay $86,014.

Inflation Is Not the Reason

According to Law School Transparency, private ABA-approved law schools now charge 2.7 times more per year than in 1985 even after adjusting for inflation. Public schools are even worse, charging an average of nearly six times the tuition compared to 1985. Comparing apples to apples, tuition for an in-state resident of a public school in 2019 should cost an average of slightly less than $5,000 per year if inflation was the only factor. The full-time resident tuition for the University of Michigan Law School for 2019 is $30,763.

How Much Do Students Really Pay?

While it varies by law school, a significant number of students do not receive financial aid. At Columbia, about half of students pay the full sticker price. The University of Chicago and the University of Michigan do better, with only a little over 15% paying full tuition.

While expensive, these costs do come with benefits. Of the 2018 graduating class, 93.5% of Columbia alumni obtained full-time employment in legal jobs. The University of Chicago and the University of Michigan each had an impressive 91.1% and 89.3%, respectively.

Worth it? You be the judge. 

Related Resources:

What Is Law School Designed to Do? (FindLaw’s Greedy Associates)

More Law Schools Could Lose Their Accreditation Under New ABA Rule (FindLaw’s Greedy Associates)

Why Is Everybody Suddenly Going to Law School?(FindLaw's Greedy Associates)