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Law School Tuition Costs

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 non-residents.
 
 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 approximately $18,000.
 
 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 http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos053.htm), the 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.

Related: Applying to Law School: Adding Up the Costs

 


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