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Everything You Need to Know About the Cost of Law School

How Much Does Law School Cost in 2022?
Susan Guillory
Susan GuilloryUpdated October 27, 2022
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Ever since you were a kid, you could always see both sides of an argument and make a persuasive case for your side. Your friends and family may have even called you argumentative! Now that you’re contemplating your future career, you think you’d make a great lawyer.The thing is, you’ve heard that law school is expensive. You’re not sure how you could afford it, or what options you have to cover the cost. How much is law school, anyway? What should you budget for? We’ll look at average costs at some of the top schools as well as explore your financing options.

Average Law School Tuition

Let’s get straight to it: how much does law school cost? The costliest: Columbia University Law School at $69,916 a year. Over three years, a law student can expect to pay anywhere from $87,000 to $185,000 and up. It depends on the type of school you go to (private or public) and whether you are a resident or non-resident.So is law school worth it? Certainly, what you’ll pay for your education should factor into your answer.

Private Law School Tuition

Private law schools tend to be more expensive, though the prestige and alumni network you’ll get access to may be worth the cost.Here is the average cost of law school for the top five private institutions (tuition only):
  • Columbia University: $69,916
  • New York University: $66,422
  • University of Pennsylvania: $65,804
  • Cornell University: $65,541
  • Harvard University: $64,978

Public Law School Tuition

How much is law school tuition for public schools? It depends on whether you’re a resident of the state where the school is located. Residents tend to get much lower tuition.

Resident

To entice students who already live in a state to attend public schools in that state, many institutions offer a huge discount on tuition.

Non-Resident

Costs may be higher for non-residents to attend law school at a public school in another state.Keep in mind these are the top schools. There are many other law school programs that offer a great education without the high price tag. Here are some that have tuition under $30,000.

Other Costs of Law School

There are other law school costs to consider besides tuition. The following will add to the overall expense of attending law school, so be sure to factor them in.

Room and Board

You may have the option to live on campus as a law school student, and the cost of room and board may be cheaper than living off campus and buying your own meals.Law school living expenses on average total out at $68,211, or $22,737 per year, according to educationdata.org.

Books

Law school is known for the many books it requires. And they don’t come cheap. Textbook costs can range from $1,000 to $2,250 per year. You may be able to save a little by purchasing used books, renting, or opting for digital versions if your professors allow it.

Fees

There are a variety of other fees associated with applying to and attending law school, including application, administrative, technology, athletics, and other costs. These can add hundreds or even thousands to your cost of law school.

Other Living Expenses

Expect other living expenses to budget for, including:
  • Rent if you live off campus
  • Groceries
  • Insurance (car, health)
  • Gas
  • Car payment
  • Phone bill

5 Options for Paying for Law School

As you see, law school can be quite expensive when you factor in all the costs you’ll have. Don’t worry: Most students don’t have the cash to cover this large expense. Instead, they use one or more of the following.

1. Grad School Loans

There are low-interest student loans available that can be used to pay for grad school. You won’t have to start paying on the loan until you complete your program.If you took out an undergrad loan with a high interest rate, you might consider refinancing it. Learn how student loan refinancing works.

2. Law School Scholarships

There are also law school scholarships available that can help with part or all of your tuition, books, and room and board. These may be offered by the university itself, a nonprofit, or a corporation. Some may require you to have a certain GPA, while others may be granted to students focusing on a particular aspect of the law or who come from a certain ethnic background.Once you fill out your FAFSA for grad school, your application will be submitted to your school of choice, which will then offer you scholarships and/or financial aid based on what you qualify for.

3. Grants to Attend Law School

Similar to scholarships, grants to attend law school do not have to be repaid. Grants may range from a few hundred dollars per year of school to several thousand. In order to qualify for some of the grants, you must have at least a 3.0 GPA prior to entering law school or while in law school.  

4. Law School Loan Forgiveness

If you work for a qualifying U.S. federal, state, local, or tribal government or not-for-profit organization, you may be able to take advantage of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, which may forgive part or all of your student loans.

 5. Refinancing Undergrad Loans

If you took out an undergraduate loan, you may be able to refinance it and roll in your law school loan so that you have one monthly payment and a single (hopefully lower) interest rate.First, review the pros and cons of student loan refinancing. Refinancing a student loan may cause you to forfeit federal benefits like loan forgiveness programs for the portion that you refinance.

Tips for Paying for Law School

Once you know which of the financing options you qualify for, aim to use scholarships and grants first, then student loans. That way, you minimize your actual out-of-pocket expenses.Look for a school based on reputation and offerings. Attending Harvard isn’t your only path to success as a lawyer, and you may be able to find a more affordable school and have lower student loans to pay off later.

The Takeaway

Now that you have a better understanding of how much law school costs, consider carefully which school and program are the best fit for you. Also get a plan for how you’ll pay for it so you won’t have to stress about money.

3 Student Loan Tips

  1. Refinancing your student loan can lower your monthly payments and help you adjust your loan term. Compare student loan refinancing rates to find a loan that works for you.
  2. Paying extra each month on your student loan can reduce the interest you pay and so lower your total loan cost over time. (The law prohibits prepayment penalties on federal or private student loans.)
  3. If you teach full-time for five complete and consecutive academic years in a low-income school, you may be eligible for federal student loan forgiveness.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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About the Author

Susan Guillory

Susan Guillory

Susan Guillory is the president of Egg Marketing, a content marketing firm based in San Diego. She’s written several business books, and has been published on sites including Forbes, AllBusiness, and Cision. She enjoys writing about business and personal credit, financial strategies, loans, and credit cards. Follow her on Twitter @eggmarketing.
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