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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 depend 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 and an additional $350 million in 2017 alone. 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.

2018 Graduates

View All Schools
TypeSchools Accounted ForAverage Borrowed/Student(% of all grads borrowing)Known
Federal Investment
Adjusted
Federal Investment
Private (Non-Profit) 103/111 (92.8%) $130,317 (74.9%) $1,886,858,465 $2,015,836,071
Public School 81/86 (94.2%) $91,803 (75%) $851,103,738 $900,383,236
Private (For Profit) 2/4 (50%) $133,464 (88.5%) $34,967,494 $63,673,916
All Types 186/201 (92.5%) $115,481 (75%) $2,772,929,697 $2,979,893,223

2017 Graduates

View All Schools
TypeSchools Accounted ForAverage Borrowed/Student(% of all grads borrowing)Known
Federal Investment
Adjusted
Federal Investment
Private (Non-Profit) 100/113 (88.5%) $129,507 (74.8%) $1,845,734,451 $2,048,191,081
Public School 80/86 (93%) $94,533 (76.5%) $886,912,280 $949,901,565
Private (For Profit) 1/4 (25%) $143,105 (88.2%) $13,881,185 $80,006,103
All Types 181/203 (89.2%) $115,736 (75.5%) $2,746,527,916 $3,078,098,749

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%) $134,028 (75.8%) $2,026,630,684 $2,256,213,909
Public School 80/85 (94.1%) $97,611 (77.2%) $968,888,423 $1,037,933,218
Private (For Profit) 2/5 (40%) $151,321 (73.2%) $48,725,487 $130,672,897
All Types 181/203 (89.2%) $119,999 (76.3%) $3,044,244,594 $3,424,820,024

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%) $132,472 (77.1%) $2,165,778,621 $2,455,380,235
Public School 82/85 (96.5%) $98,186 (77%) $1,062,171,874 $1,096,781,629
Private (For Profit) 2/5 (40%) $158,215 (86.7%) $73,411,856 $197,731,747
All Types 183/203 (90.1%) $119,480 (77.2%) $3,301,362,351 $3,749,893,611

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%) $130,761 (82%) $2,591,420,618 $2,838,595,348
Public School 79/85 (92.9%) $95,800 (81.4%) $1,142,223,072 $1,224,773,692
Private (For Profit) 3/5 (60%) $151,622 (91.3%) $152,077,247 $223,545,243
All Types 185/203 (91.1%) $118,670 (82%) $3,885,720,937 $4,286,914,283

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%) $128,100 (82.7%) $2,648,475,564 $3,031,489,787
Public School 80/85 (94.1%) $93,959 (82.3%) $1,204,747,934 $1,276,926,051
Private (For Profit) 3/5 (60%) $144,921 (91.8%) $151,297,138 $219,560,491
All Types 181/201 (90%) $115,935 (82.8%) $4,004,520,636 $4,527,976,329

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%) $125,683 (84%) $2,912,837,906 $3,022,812,075
Public School 80/85 (94.1%) $91,125 (84%) $1,196,567,699 $1,257,321,936
Private (For Profit) 5/5 (100%) $140,844 (91.8%) $172,111,398 $172,111,398
All Types 191/201 (95%) $114,086 (84.2%) $4,281,517,003 $4,452,245,409

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%) $120,250 (84.5%) $2,687,237,320 $2,791,636,515
Public School 80/84 (95.2%) $85,241 (85.3%) $1,118,963,784 $1,164,429,417
Private (For Profit) 5/5 (100%) $132,238 (90.3%) $119,940,059 $119,940,059
All Types 190/200 (95%) $107,917 (85%) $3,926,141,163 $4,076,005,991

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%) $111,990 (84.6%) $2,484,042,890 $2,550,282,770
Public School 80/83 (96.4%) $78,959 (83.7%) $1,007,986,691 $1,049,578,375
Private (For Profit) 4/5 (80%) $122,079 (89%) $94,000,964 $101,499,307
All Types 191/199 (96%) $100,401 (84.4%) $3,586,030,545 $3,701,360,452

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."