Five Law School Cost Considerations
Five Law School Cost Considerations: For many, the decision of where to go to law school is not as simple as attending the highest rank school to which you were admitted. Cost is a huge factor in deciding where to go to law school. Your choice is something that will likely follow you for years, or even decades, after graduation. Here are some law school cost considerations to help you make an informed financial decision.
Five Law School Cost Considerations
Law School Cost Consideration #1: Cost of tuition
One major cost consideration associated with attending law school is, obviously, tuition. Unfortunately for applicants, it’s rising at most schools almost every year. Some law schools now charging nearly $70,000 per year for tuition and student fees. This figure does not include anything outside of your academic curriculum.
Law School Cost Consideration #2: Cost of attendance
Don’t focus just on the cost of tuition. Instead, look at the total cost of attendance at each prospective school. This is a major figure in determining the cost of going to law school. The cost of attendance takes into account room, board, books, transportation, insurance and other expenses associated with attending law school in a particular area.
A law school’s location may significantly increase the cost of going to law school far beyond the tuition price. For example, Columbia Law School (ranked #5 by US News and World Report, 2019) has a total cost of attendance of nearly $100,000 per year. This is a large jump from the $67,532 charged for tuition alone. That’s not to say it’s not a worthwhile endeavor since Columbia Law (obviously it’s a fantastic and competitive program). However, you must make an informed decision of where to attend based on the full financial commitment required.
Law School Cost Consideration #3: Scholarships and grants
The most significant and obvious way to reduce the cost of going to law school is through scholarships and grants. These are monetary awards from the law school to be applied towards your tuition that you do not need to pay back. Scholarships and grants are usually merit or need-based. Be sure that you apply for all scholarship and grant opportunities available to you.
Compare raw numbers of the debt burden you’ll incur from the various scholarship offers you receive. It’s not enough that you received 50% tuition scholarship to a private institution. You could end up paying more out-of-pocket than you would for tuition at a state school
Check out our post, published by the National Jurist in January 2019 on 9 must-know scholarship tips.
Law School Cost Consideration #4: Student loans and working
If you don’t receive a scholarship or grant, and aren’t able to work or fund your education on your own, most students are left with no choice but to take out student loans. The average law student debt, according to LendEDU, is between $24,000 and over $170,000 upon graduation. It’s a decision not to take lightly.
There are federal direct unsubsidized loans, Grad PLUS loans, and a variety of private loans available to law students. Work-study options may also be available at your institution.
However, keep in mind that your law school may have a policy limiting the number of hours a full-time law student can work during the semester. The ABA used to restrict full-time students to 20 hours of work per week. Though the rule is no longer around, some schools may still keep something similar in their academic regulations.
Law School Cost Consideration #5: Career freedom
The cost of a program could not only determine how much debt you’ll need to take on but also the career freedom and flexibility you’ll have upon graduation. You’ll need to weigh the price of an expensive university against the opportunities it will afford you in your career. Know that there’s no guarantee that you’ll graduate in the top of your class. You are not guaranteed a healthy six-figure salary upon graduation. For those interested in pursuing public service or other notoriously lower paying legal careers, your ability to pay back your law school loans may seriously impact the decision of where to go to law school.
Though there are loan forgiveness programs available to students, there are no guarantees that all of those programs will be secured in the years or decade it will take for you to be eligible for forgiveness. While you can count on loan forgiveness programs now, don’t make a decision solely based on the idea of having your loans forgiven down the road. In many different legal fields, the burnout rate for young attorneys can be high. There’s no assurance that you’ll love what you do and want to spend the next decade pursuing it simply because you have no other way to get out of your student loan obligations.
Provide yourself with as much security and flexibility as you can to be able to live comfortably while pursuing a fulfilling and open-ended career.
In conclusion, the cost of going to law school should be a major consideration when making the decision of where to go to law school. It’s a balancing act and there’s no one right answer for everyone. For each individual, the analysis will be different depending on what you value and the funding available to you. Do your best to make an informed and well-educated decision regarding law school cost considerations and what they mean for your career opportunities and lifestyle thereafter.