The U.S. News Short List, separate from our overall rankings, is a regular series that magnifies individual data points in hopes of providing students and parents a way to find which undergraduate or graduate programs excel or have room to grow in specific areas. Be sure to explore The Short List: College and The Short List: Grad School to find data that matters to you in your college or grad school search.
Many could argue that law school is a gamble for some students. It's common for new lawyers to be mired in student debt and without jobs that make use of their J.D. skills. Graduates at some schools, though, are more likely to obtain jobs that make it easier to pay off student loans that can reach six figures.
Alumni from Clark Law School at Brigham Young University may have the best chance of reducing law school debt. The median starting salary for 2012 graduates in the private sector is $100,000, and the average law school-only student debt for 2013 graduates who incurred debt is $56,053. The Utah school offers the largest salary-to-debt ratio – 1.784 – of the 177 ranked institutions that reported data to U.S. News in an annual survey.
[Check out the top law schools in pictures.]
University of Texas—Austin held this title last year when its salary-to-debt ratio – a calculation based on the data available of how many times a student's reported starting salary covers his or her debt load – was 1.796. The school's new ratio is 1.736, making it second among institutions that offer the best salary-to-debt ratio.
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey—Newark, had a more drastic fall. Previously listed ninth with a ratio of 1.346, its ratio for 2013 graduates was 0.995 – putting it well below this list. The median private sector salary for 2012 alumni is $89,000 – a figure that's barely lower than the average student debt for 2013 graduates: $89,417.
[See an infographic with data about the top law schools.]
Among the 10 schools with the biggest salary-to-debt ratio, all listed a median salary of $100,000 or more for 2012 graduates in the private sector.
The Florida Coastal School of Law had the lowest salary-to-debt ratio out of all the institutions that reported data to U.S. News. Alumni who graduated in 2012 and worked in the private sector had a median salary of $45,000 while 2013 graduates with student loans for law school carried an average debt of $150,360. The school's salary-to-debt ratio is 0.299.
Below is a list of the 10 schools where graduates' median private sector salaries were the highest relative to the average law school debt among students who borrowed. Unranked law schools, which do not submit enough data for U.S. News to calculate a rank, were not considered for this report.
|School (name) (state)||Median private sector starting salary (2012 grads)||Average student debt (2013 grads)||Salary-to-debt ratio||U.S. News law school rank|
|Brigham Young University (Clark) (UT)||$100,000||$56,053||1.784||36|
|University of Texas—Austin||$160,000||$92,180||1.736||15|
|Stanford University (CA)||$160,000||$108,391||1.476||3|
|Yale University (CT)||$160,000||$111,961||1.429||1|
|University of Houston||$127,500||$89,530||1.424||58|
|University of California—Los Angeles||$160,000||$114,963||1.392||16|
|University of Michigan—Ann Arbor||$160,000||$117,675||1.36||10|
|Howard University (DC)||$160,000||$123,485||1.296||135|
Don’t see your school in the top 10? Access the U.S. News Law School Compass to find salary and student debt data, complete rankings and much more. School officials can access historical data and rankings, including of peer institutions, via U.S. News Academic Insights.
U.S. News surveyed 200 ABA accredited law schools for our 2013 survey of law programs. Schools self-reported a myriad data regarding their academic programs and the makeup of their student body, among other areas, making U.S. News’s data the most accurate and detailed collection of college facts and figures of its kind. While U.S. News uses much of this survey data to rank schools for our annual Best Law Schools rankings, the data can also be useful when examined on a smaller scale. U.S. News will now produce lists of data, separate from the overall rankings, meant to provide students and parents a means to find which schools excel, or have room to grow, in specific areas that are important to them. While the data comes from the schools themselves, these lists are not related to, and have no influence over, U.S. News’s rankings of Best Colleges or Best Graduate Schools. The salary and student debt data above are correct as of April 1, 2014.
Updated on June 2, 2014: This article has been updated to remove the University of the District of Columbia’s Clarke School of Law, which has notified U.S. News that it incorrectly reported its law school indebtedness data.