With tuition increasing at nearly every law school for the 2011-12 school year, incoming students may want to consider the initial value a law degree will render. A legal education can cost upwards of $150,000, and students, on average, graduate from law school with $93,359 in debt, according to an analysis of school-reported data to U.S. News.
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The time it takes to recover your student debt can vary widely by job choice, since median starting salaries in the private sector are, on average, about twice as large as median public sector starting salaries. Law school graduates in the private sector earned an average median wage of $91,708 in 2010, according to the schools' self-reported data; in the public sector, graduates garnered an average median of $49,831. (Many schools do, however, offer loan forgiveness and repayment options for qualifying public interest workers.) Starting salary data, when compared to average indebtedness, can give students an idea of the initial value of their law degree.
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Of 190 law schools surveyed each year by U.S. News, 188 schools reported both the average indebtedness of their 2010 graduates and the median starting salary of graduates who accepted jobs in the private sector. The salary-to-debt ratio, used in the table below, is a calculation of how many times a student's reported starting salary covers their debt load. For this list, only private sector starting salary data was considered, and schools that were designated by U.S. News as Unranked are not included.
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With a few exceptions, the schools that offer the most financial value at graduation are public institutions, though reported indebtedness and salary data still fluctuate widely. At the Southern University Law Center, where tuition is just $9,238 a year for in-state students, the average graduate leaves with about $18,600 in debt, the school reports. Southern University law graduates who enter the private sector earn a median of $100,000 a year, according to the school, which yields a salary-to-debt ratio of 5.4.
The University of California—Berkeley, in contrast, charges in-state students $44,244 in tuition and reports its students graduate with an average of $91,277 in debt—the highest on this list, though still slightly lower than the national average. Berkeley also reports, however, that its students who land jobs in the private sector make $160,000, rendering a salary-to-debt ratio of 1.8.
Among private schools, Brigham Young University's J. Reuben Clark Law School, well-known for its low tuition of $20,560, and the Loyola University New Orleans School of Law garner the highest initial salary-to-debt ratios for graduates.
Based on an analysis of school-reported data, this list comprises 11 law schools whose students leave with the least amount of debt relative to their first year salaries in the private sector.
|School Name||Median Private Sector Starting Salary||Average Student Debt||Salary to Debt Ratio||U.S. News Law School Rank|
|Southern University Law Center||$100,000||$18,603||5.4||Rank Not Published|
|Georgia State University College of Law||$80,000||$19,136||4.2||61|
|Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey—Camden School of Law||$115,000||$32,235||3.6||84|
|Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law||$63,837||$22,500||2.8||Rank Not Published|
|Brigham Young University J. Reuben Clark Law School||$120,000||$52,315||2.3||42|
|University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill||$130,000||$60,212||2.2||30|
|University of Texas—Austin School of Law||$160,000||$78,408||2||14|
|University of Cincinnati College of Law||$115,000||$58,455||2||61|
|Loyola University New Orleans School of Law||$84,500||$45,350||1.9||143|
|University of Georgia School of Law||$130,000||$71,283||1.8||35|
|University of California—Berkeley School of Law||$160,000||$91,277||1.8||9|
(Note: Due to salary-to-debt ratio ties, there are 11 schools on this list.)
Don't see your school in the top 10? Access the U.S. News Law School Compass to find salary data, debt statistics, and much more.
U.S. News surveyed 190 fully ABA accredited law schools for our 2010 survey of law programs. Schools self-reported a myriad of 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 school 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.