Law school graduates are among the highest-paid in the country, but they also have some of the biggest student debt around… and with universities charging anything up to $69,916 in tuition, it’s easy to see why. Fortunately, there’s a way for prospective students to decide whether the tuition fee being demanded is justified. Each year, US News and World Reports gives a breakdown of the best law schools in the US, along with their respective tuition fees. Here, we take a look at the 20 most expensive law schools in the US, and consider whether their demands are in line with their reputations.
20. Fordham University. Tuition: $60,406
It may be the least expensive of our entries, but you’re still going to need a mammoth student loan if you want to spend the next few years at Fordham University. Based on US News’ ranking system, it’s not exactly clear why Fordham feels it can justify such high tuition fees, given that it only ranks #39 in the best law schools in the US. On the other hand, it does have plenty of plus points, including offering students the chance to get their hands dirty at a choice of 15 legal clinics, as well as the opportunity to find pro-bono work through its Public Interest Resource Center.
19. Cardozo-Yeshiva University Tuition: $60,610
If you’ve got a spare $60,610 hanging around, you may want to spend it at Cardozo-Yeshiva University. Or not… like our previous entry, Fordham University, Cardozo-Yeshiva University’s tuition doesn’t seem commensurate with its US News ranking. At number 59 on the list of best grad schools, there are certainly a fair few schools below it, but there’s also enough above it to beg the question of what it’s basing its fee system on. Maybe it’s the 609,211 tomes it carries in its library, or the 6.9: student- faculty ratio. Whatever it is, it’s got to be good.
18. University of Virginia (out of state). Tuition: $60,700
The first entry from the University of Virginia comes in next, narrowly beating off competition from Cardozo by just $90 dollars. The cost of out-of-state tuition for 2020 comes in at $60,700… a hefty sum, you might think, but in this particular case, it may be something of a bargain. As #8 in the Best Law Schools list, the University of Virginia is clearly investing those dollars in all the right things, including 20 hand-on clinics, and a student-faculty ratio of 6.2:1.
17 George Washington University. Tuition: $60,790
At number 17 with tuition fees of $60,790 is George Washington University, a school that ranks number 22 overall. In terms of performance, it’s really not doing too badly, offering students a choice of 15 hands on clinics, 5 legal journals to join, and opportunities to take on pro bono work for foundations such as the Gulf Recovery Network and the Animal Welfare Project. Overall, the quality of service offered is sufficient justification for its fee.
16. University of Connecticut (out of state) Tuition: $61,080
Next up we have the University of Connecticut, a school that can boast of being #4 in student to faculty ratio, #16 in highest tuition, #34 in public sector salary, #46 in library size, #64 in Median LSAT, #66 in Acceptance Rate, #71 in Employment Rate at Graduation, #103 in Employment Rate at 10 Months, #79 in Bar Passage Rate, #92 in Median Undergraduate GPA, #113 in Presence of Minority Students, #115 in Presence of Minority Faculty, #122 in Presence of Female Faculty, and last (but considering its considerable tuition fees, certainly not least) #52 in Best Law Schools.
15. Georgetown University Tuition: $62,244
If you want a school that ranks lower on the list for tuition fees than it does for overall performance, Georgetown University might be the one for you. Despite ranking as the 14th best law school in the country, Georgetown only comes in at number 15 on the list of universities charging the highest tuition fees. We appreciate the difference is small, but in these days of scrimping and saving, every little has to help, right?
14. Stanford University Tuition: $62,373
The next school on our list is one of its biggest surprises. With a world-famous reputation, a library that contains almost 500,000 books, a student-faculty ratio of 4:1, and some of the best rankings for Intellectual Property Law (#1), Health Care Law (#11), Clinical Law (#7), and Tax Law (#6) among all our entries, you’d expect the 2nd best law school in the country to come much further up the list than number 14.
13. Baylor University Tuition: $62,432
In at number 13 is Baylor University, a university that according to its slogan stands “For Church, For Texas”, and, as of 2020,” Disproportionately High Tuition Fees”. Don’t believe me? Then consider how Stanford, a university that ranks as the 2nd best law school in the country, only charges its students $62,373, while Baylor University, a university that ranks #48, charges $62,432. Yes, I know… $59 dollars… but remember, these are lawyers it’s trying to squeeze, for whom principle is surely all.
12. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (out of state) Tuition: $62,762
Students interested in attending the 9th best law school in the country are in luck; with their position of 12th place on our list, the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor is one of the few schools that can claim, with at least a degree of sincerity, to offer a good deal. Some of the more attractive features of the school include a summer school that offers students the chance to get a head start on their studies, 50 organizations to join, and a student-faculty ratio of 6.8:1.
11. University of Virginia (in state). Tuition: $63,700
The University of Virginia’s second entry comes in at number 11, with an in-state tuition fee of $63,700. We’ve already mentioned the respectable student-faculty ratio and the impressive number of hands-on clinics during our previous summing up, but if you need anymore convincing their tuition fees are worth it, how about the fact they have graduates in each of the American Lawyer top 100 firms, are No. 2 in the number of graduates leading the nation’s top 100 firms, No. 1 in employment outcomes in 2019, and No. 4 after Yale, Harvard and Stanford in placing clerks on the U.S. Supreme Court from 2005-18 (all of this, by the way, comes straight from their website, but I think we can trust a law school to give us the truth).
10. University of Chicago Tuition: $64,089
Creeping into the top ten is the University of Chicago, a university WIKI credits with one of the highest concentrations of Nobel laureates in the world. If that wasn’t a big enough draw, how about the fact it ranks as the 4th best law school in the States? With a Student-faculty ratio of 5.1:1, a library with over 700,000 volumes, and 54 Rhodes Scholars, 26 Marshall Scholars, 9 Fields Medalists, 4 Turing Award Winners, 25 Pulitzer Prize winners, and 20 National Humanities Medalists breaking bread with all those Nobel laureates, it certainly justifies that $64,089 tuition fee.
9. Yale University Tuition: $64,267
Number 9 for most expensive tuition fees and number 1 for best law school in the States is Yale University, one of the most respected and famed institutions in the world. A quick glance at how it compares to other schools tells us all we need to know about why so many students are desperate to get in: when it comes to acceptance rate, median LSAT, and private sector salary, yale ranks #1, for median undergraduate GPA and library size its #2, while for student to faculty ratio its #6. the only thing it’s not great at is employing anyone who’s not white, middle class and male, placing at #139 in terms of the highest percentage of female faculty members and #111 in terms of the highest percentage of racial or ethnic minority faculty.
8. Northwestern University Tuition: $64,402
10th for best law school in the land and 8th for highest tuition is Northwestern University. The school offers five legal journals for second and third-year students to join, 30 student organizations, a student-faculty ratio of 3.6:1 (with 270 faculty members in total), 827,547 volumes in its library, and the opportunity for students to beef up their law studies by completing a J.D./MBA in conjunction with the Kellogg School of Management or a J.D./Ph.D. with the Northwestern Graduate School.
7. Duke University Tuition: $64,722
Tied with Northwestern at #10 in best law schools is Duke University, an institution that’s consistently ranked as one of the top 14 law schools since the US News & World Report began publishing its league table. As one of the most selective schools in the country, you’ll need to have more than money behind you if you want to get in (although that said, if it stooped to accepting Richard “Tricky Dicky” Nixon, you might stand a greater chance than you think).
6. University of Southern California Tuition: $64,908
Coming in at number 6 with tuition fees of $64,908 is the 17th best law school in the US, the University of Southern California. With a student-faculty ratio of 5.9:1, 193 full-time faculty members, 614 students, 428076 legal volumes, and the title of oldest law school in the Southwestern United States, it’s as good a place as any to spend your money.
5. Harvard University Tuition: $64,978
It had to be here somewhere, didn’t it? With tuition fees of $64,978, the world-famous Harvard University comes in at number 5 on our list. With regards to other rankings, it places #1 in median LSAT, #1 in private sector salary, #1 in library size, #3 in acceptance rate, #3 in median undergraduate GPA, #8 in bar passage rate and an underwhelming #155 in presence of female faculty.
4. Cornell University Tuition: $65,541
Charging a princely tuition of $65,541, Cornell University makes its appearance at number 4. As the 13th best law school in the US, Cornell offers students a respectable student-faculty ratio of 4.9:1., a library stocked with 785,110 volumes, and an expected starting salary on graduation of $180,000 in the private sector, and $64,228 in the public sector. Enough to justify the tuition? You be the judge.
3. University of Pennsylvania Tuition: $65,804
Ranking #7 in best law schools and #3 in highest tuition is the University of Pennsylvania. Along with the requirement to stump up $65,804 in tuition, Pennsylvania expects all its students to complete at least 70 hours of pro bono work before they graduate. If they can manage that, they stand a chance of joining the ranks of the 94.9% of students who within a year of graduating, find themselves earning a salary of $180,000 in the private sector or $61,218 in the public sector.
2. New York University Tuition: $66,422
The only thing standing between New York University and a first-place position on our list is $3494. In terms of the ranking in the best law school’s category, there’s only a hairs breadth between our top two: New York is at 6, while our next and final entry is at 5. Focusing on New York for a moment, it’s easy to understand why it ranks so highly in both categories; during their first year, students get the chance at some interactive experience at NYU’s Lawyering Program. In their 2nd and 3rd years, they can further their skills at any of the schools 30 legal clinics and 25 on-campus centers. There’s also the chance to study at one of the university’s 15 worldwide partners.
1. Columbia University Tuition: $69,916
Just slipping past NYC to take poll position on our leader’s board is Columbia University, a school where you’re going to need more than just the occasional handout from the bank of mom and dad to survive. In fairness, it does more than just charge an eyewatering fee: as the 5th best law school in the US, it offers a respectable student-faculty ratio of 4.9:1, over 1 million volumes in its library, ranks #4 in terms of students employed at the time of graduation (92.4%) and ties for number 1 in terms of median starting salary for students who enter the private sector (who can expect anything up to $180,000).