Obviously, money is a major factor when
selecting a law school. Law school is an
expensive endeavor for most people. Law
school lasts 3 years, and the tuition alone
may be as much as $30,000 a year. Moreover,
students are generally discouraged from
working, particularly during the first year.
Furthermore, unlike undergraduate education
and most types of graduate programs, there
are few opportunities for scholarships,
grants, fellowships, work study, and
assistantships. If you are a traditional law
student, unless your family can afford to
pay for law school and they are willing to
do so, you will probably have to rely on
financial aid. In other words, you will need
to borrow the money. Indeed, most law
students rely on loans to cover the lion’s
share of law school costs. With this in
mind, there are several financial
considerations that you should take into
account when selecting a law school.
Obviously, the first consideration is cost.
Cost includes, but goes beyond, tuition.
Tuitions can range from as little as $5,800
for in-state tuition at the University of
Georgia School of Law, to $29,500 at Harvard
Law School . The two most important
distinctions in determining tuition are
usually private v. public and in-state v.
out-of-state. Generally speaking, private
schools cost more than public schools.
Moreover, public school tuition for in-state
students is more expensive than it is for
out-of-state students. For example, the
tuition for in-state students at UMKC is
approximately $11,000 a year for in-state
residents, compared to almost $22,000 for
The other important factor when considering
cost is living expenses. Living expenses
will vary based on the overall cost of
living for the city or town in which the
school is located. For example, the
University of Georgia School of Law
estimates that students will need
approximately $8,000 a year to cover room,
board, and books in Athens , Georgia .
Conversely, Harvard Law Schools estimates
that similar expenses in Boston will run
After evaluating costs of the school, your
next question should be: how can I pay for
it? For some students, they can either use
their own money, a spouse’s income, or their
parents are willing to pay for law school.
However, most students must rely on some
form of outside funding to pay for law
school. As noted above, you will probably
have to rely on student loans. You should be
able to find some form of student loans to
finance law school. The main issue is
whether you will be able to repay your loan.
The good news is that loan repayment is
usually fairly flexible. Often you can repay
your loan over a period of up to 30 years.
Still, student loan payments can cause an
economic hardship if 1) the loan is too
large; 2) you have a moderate to low salary.
As such, you need to think about these two
factors before you select your law school.
Essentially, you have to estimate how much
money you think you will earn. If you think
you will earn a substantial amount of money
by graduating from that particular law
school, than you can probably afford to pay
back the loans, no matter how high. However,
if you estimate that you will receive a low
salary, then you should reconsider if you
know that you would have to take out
substantial student loans to cover tuition
and expenses. Of course, you are probably
thinking that it is almost impossible to
determine what your salary will be like.
True, there is virtually no way to know for
sure how much you will earn over the course
of repaying the loan. However, you can use
two pieces of information to arrive at a
rough guess. The first is the average
starting salary of recent graduates from the
particular law school of interest. If the
starting salaries are relatively high you
can probably afford to pay a little more
money in student loan payments. The second
piece of information is the average starting
salary in the type of job in which you are
interested. Not all attorneys start out
making a six figure salary. For example,
most government and public interest jobs are
relatively low paying. A rookie prosecutor
might make $35,000 to start. According to
the Bureau of Labor Statistics (see
median salary of a lawyer 6 months after
graduation in 2000 was $51,900. The median
for attorneys working in private practice
was $80,000, compared to $34,000 for a
public interest attorney.
Applying to Law School: Adding Up the Costs