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Scope: National

Years Compared: 1985 to 2017

Law School Costs

Tuition, also known as "nominal tuition" or "sticker price," continues to climb at U.S. law schools. The following chart reflects the average nominal tuition prices for each category over 33 years, from 1985 to 2017, for all ABA-Approved law schools.

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Inflation has been a factor in rising law school prices, but law school tuition increases exceed the inflation rate between 1985 and 2017. In 1985, the average private school tuition was $7,526 (1985 dollars), which would have cost a student $17,118 in 2017. Instead, average tuition was $46,329 (2017 dollars). In other words, private law school was 2.71 times as expensive in 2017 as it was in 1985 after adjusting for inflation.

In 1985, the average public school tuition was $2,006 (1985 dollars) for residents, which would have cost a student $4,563 in 2017. Instead, average tuition was $26,425 (2017 dollars) for residents. In other words, public school was 5.79 times as expensive in 2017 as it was in 1985 after adjusting for inflation.

About the Data

Nationwide averages from 1985 to 2013 come from the American Bar Association. Starting in 2014, LST calculates the nationwide average from individual schools, using data the schools reported to the American Bar Association. LST uses the Consumer Price Index (CPI-U) for inflation, which covers 89% of the total U.S. population. For an explanation of various indices to compare tuition over time, see this paper. LST uses normal averages rather than weighted averages for the nationwide averages in 2014 and later. The ABA uses normal averages from 1985 to 2013.