Let’s start with the basics. The price of law school has dramatically risen in the past several decades. In 1985, the median tuition and fees for law schools was $1,792. That price has increased nearly 23x, with median tuition in 2012 being $40,732.
Compared to our parents or grandparents, we’re living in a different world. Some law school grads—especially after the 2008 financial crisis—had trouble finding steady employment, which led to stress in paying off their law school loans. Simply executing a Google search for “law school loan horror stories” may make you think twice before attending law school.
Therefore, it is critical to review the costs of law school before attending. The investment will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, so you want to ensure that you are choosing the best school for you—in terms of academics, location, and cost.
An easy way to compare the cost of a particular law school is to use free tools provided by AdmissionsDean or Law School Transparency. These tools will provide you a basic estimate of your costs and they make it easy to take a comparative view when contemplating multiple law schools.
Having said this, every law school provides an estimate of a budget of tuition and fees, along with estimates for things like living expenses and books. They use these budgets for financial aid (as we will discuss below), but they provide a good estimate of your total costs for attending the current year of law school. Note that this estimate is only for the upcoming or current academic year. Your 2L and 3L costs, in all likelihood, will be slightly higher.
As just one example, Yale Law School (ranked as the number one law school in the U.S. by U.S. News & World Report) released its 2018-2019 basic budget here. Tuition is $62,017, the university administrative & activities fee is $2,250, room, board & personal expenses is $17,595, books are $1,100 and university hospitalization coverage is $2,402, leading to a grand total of $85,364. Multiply that out by three years and you are looking at a total price of (at least) $256,092.
While this may be on the higher side compared to other law schools, you will have to do the math for each school that you are thinking of attending.
The bottom line: no matter where you attend, law school is an expensive endeavor.