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Scope: National

Law School Costs

Law students borrow from the U.S. Department of Education Direct Loan Program for school. These loans are income-generating assets for the government. The government is investing in not only law students, who will repay loans (in theory) with interest, but also law schools. Some (or many) law schools would close without federal investment because schools depend on tuition revenue to stay open and students depent on federal student loans to pay tuition and cover living expenses. Federal student loan policy dictates that the government will lend the full cost of attendance to anyone who attends an ABA-approved law school. If the government changes this lending policy, for example by limiting or eliminating Graduate Plus loans, private lenders may fill some of the lending market, though presumably not all of it.

The size of the federal investment has declined substantially in recent years—by more than $1.1 billion between 2013 and 2016. This is a function of falling demand for law school, rather than a change in federal student loan policy.

Tip On the left panelAt the top of the page, you can change the data scope to view federal investment from different angles.

2016 Graduates

View All Schools
TypeSchools Accounted ForAverage Borrowed/Student(% of all grads borrowing)Known
Federal Investment
Adjusted
Federal Investment
Private (Non-Profit) 99/113 (87.6%) $134,497 (75.9%) $2,057,002,246 $2,287,655,934
Public School 79/84 (94%) $96,054 (77.1%) $929,801,975 $997,623,173
Private (For Profit) 3/6 (50%) $145,419 (74.4%) $57,440,373 $137,489,104
All Types 181/203 (89.2%) $119,999 (76.3%) $3,044,244,594 $3,422,768,211

2015 Graduates

View All Schools
TypeSchools Accounted ForAverage Borrowed/Student(% of all grads borrowing)Known
Federal Investment
Adjusted
Federal Investment
Private (Non-Profit) 99/113 (87.6%) $133,075 (77.3%) $2,207,842,939 $2,499,341,979
Public School 81/84 (96.4%) $96,283 (76.8%) $1,011,545,506 $1,045,423,959
Private (For Profit) 3/6 (50%) $153,509 (82.8%) $81,973,906 $197,118,648
All Types 183/203 (90.1%) $119,480 (77.2%) $3,301,362,351 $3,741,884,586

2014 Graduates

View All Schools
TypeSchools Accounted ForAverage Borrowed/Student(% of all grads borrowing)Known
Federal Investment
Adjusted
Federal Investment
Private (Non-Profit) 103/113 (91.2%) $131,059 (82%) $2,626,025,076 $2,873,743,013
Public School 78/84 (92.9%) $94,331 (81.3%) $1,091,130,664 $1,172,310,049
Private (For Profit) 4/6 (66.7%) $147,864 (91.3%) $168,565,197 $238,260,423
All Types 185/203 (91.1%) $118,670 (82%) $3,885,720,937 $4,284,313,485

2013 Graduates

View All Schools
TypeSchools Accounted ForAverage Borrowed/Student(% of all grads borrowing)Known
Federal Investment
Adjusted
Federal Investment
Private (Non-Profit) 98/111 (88.3%) $128,069 (82.5%) $2,675,371,666 $3,057,341,261
Public School 79/84 (94%) $93,236 (82.6%) $1,165,073,734 $1,236,932,913
Private (For Profit) 4/6 (66.7%) $142,056 (91.7%) $164,075,236 $230,877,296
All Types 181/201 (90%) $115,935 (82.8%) $4,004,520,636 $4,525,151,470

2012 Graduates

View All Schools
TypeSchools Accounted ForAverage Borrowed/Student(% of all grads borrowing)Known
Federal Investment
Adjusted
Federal Investment
Private (Non-Profit) 106/111 (95.5%) $126,020 (84%) $2,957,680,957 $3,068,024,801
Public School 79/84 (94%) $89,671 (83.9%) $1,145,093,792 $1,204,815,578
Private (For Profit) 6/6 (100%) $138,667 (91.2%) $178,742,254 $178,742,254
All Types 191/201 (95%) $114,086 (84.2%) $4,281,517,003 $4,451,582,633

2011 Graduates

View All Schools
TypeSchools Accounted ForAverage Borrowed/Student(% of all grads borrowing)Known
Federal Investment
Adjusted
Federal Investment
Private (Non-Profit) 105/111 (94.6%) $120,577 (84.6%) $2,729,499,323 $2,834,307,362
Public School 79/83 (95.2%) $83,768 (85.2%) $1,068,873,422 $1,113,466,299
Private (For Profit) 6/6 (100%) $129,846 (89.9%) $127,768,418 $127,768,418
All Types 190/200 (95%) $107,917 (85%) $3,926,141,163 $4,075,542,079

2010 Graduates

View All Schools
TypeSchools Accounted ForAverage Borrowed/Student(% of all grads borrowing)Known
Federal Investment
Adjusted
Federal Investment
Private (Non-Profit) 107/111 (96.4%) $112,206 (84.5%) $2,513,081,021 $2,579,319,469
Public School 79/82 (96.3%) $77,889 (84%) $972,131,981 $1,013,280,771
Private (For Profit) 5/6 (83.3%) $120,164 (89.1%) $100,817,543 $108,202,267
All Types 191/199 (96%) $100,401 (84.4%) $3,586,030,545 $3,700,802,507

About the Data

School-specific borrowing data come from U.S. News & World Report, which relies on data reported to U.S. News by law schools. In a few cases over the years, law schools did not report the percentage borrowing properly. When that occurs, the previous year's rate is used unless a school reports the correct rate to LST or a better estimate can be generated. Graduate data come from the American Bar Association.

To calculate the amount cumulatively borrowed by law school graduates from a law school, LST multiplied the number of graduates times the percentage of those graduates borrowing loans that were processed by the school. LST rounded that number to the nearest whole graduate and multiplied it times the average amount borrowed for that school. The federal government investment figures do not include students who never graduated and those enrolled in non-J.D. programs. The adjusted federal investment figures apply group averages to the schools with unknown borrowing data. LST uses weighted averages rather than normal averages for the group and nationwide averages.

Note The "amount borrowed" does not include interest that accumulates during law school, thus is different than the "amount owed" or "debt."