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How much does law school cost?

Students walk on Harvard campus
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Students walk on Harvard campus
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No matter where you live and where you plan to study, the average cost of law school is high. In fact, many of the top institutions charge a sticker price over $70,000 per year for tuition and fees only, not including housing, books, supplies and transportation. Over the span of three years, the cost of law school can stretch well into six figures.

Before pursuing a law degree, it’s important to understand how much you might be paying overall and how you can fund your education.

What is the average cost of law school?

Data from Law School Transparency shows that in 2019, the average cost of tuition at a private law school came out to $49,312 per year. Out-of-state students at public law schools paid an average of $41,628, while in-state students were charged an average of $28,186 per academic year.

Given that law school takes an average of three years to complete, it’s no secret that the average law student has a hefty amount of student debt upon graduation. What’s more, Law School Transparency shows that law school tuition has continued to increase year after year, even taking into account inflation.

Fortunately, you don’t have to attend private school to earn a law degree, and there are plenty of schools that charge students considerably less. However, just like with undergraduate institutions, you can expect to pay considerably more if you decide to earn your degree from a top law school.

The chart below lists tuition costs for some of the top law schools in the country. Keep in mind that these totals exclude additional costs, such as fees, books and supplies, housing, meals and health insurance.

Law School Estimated Tuition (2022-23 Academic Year)
Columbia Law School $75,572
Cornell Law School $74,098
Duke Law $71,100
Emory Law $63,600
Fordham University $68,156
Georgetown Law $71,996
New York Law School $58,820
Stanford Law School $64,350
University of Notre Dame $65,436
Vanderbilt Law School $66,696

How to pay for law school

Don’t let the cost of law school give you sticker-shock and stop you from achieving your goals. There are plenty of ways to finance your law degree, from scholarships and grants to need-based financial aid.

Scholarships and grants

There are specific scholarships and grants geared toward law students that can drastically reduce the total cost of attendance. Plus, many law schools offer their own school-based grants and scholarships.

Keep in mind that, generally speaking, scholarships and grants do not need to be repaid. For that reason, law school students should strive to apply for as many scholarships and grants as possible. Students can search for specific awards with a scholarship search engine or look for offerings from local bar associations, fraternities, sororities, social clubs, religious and business organizations and more. You may also qualify for scholarships and grants based on military service.

Student loans

After applying for scholarships and other free aid, law students typically take out law school loans, which may include federal student loans, private student loans or both. Federal student loans come with fixed interest rates that aren’t based on creditworthiness, many hardship programs and alternative repayment plans. Private student loans can come with both fixed and variable interest rates, though rates are tied to your credit score.

Federal relief programs

Many loan forgiveness and repayment programs are available to law school graduates. For example, you may be able to repay your student loan debt on an income-driven repayment plan that lets you pay a percentage of your discretionary income for 20 to 25 years before ultimately forgiving remaining student loan balances. If you plan to work for a nonprofit or in a government job, you could also explore requirements for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), which lets applicants with eligible loans have their remaining balances forgiven after they make 120 on-time payments on an income-driven repayment plan.

Is the cost of law school worth it?

If you’re thinking of earning an advanced degree, the average cost of law school should be on your mind. However, the return on investment (ROI) of a law degree could very well make the hefty price tag worth it. On average, lawyers in the U.S. make nearly $150,000 annually, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

If you’re on the fence due to the costs, compare school costs and consider attending a public in-state school or an accredited online institution to cut down the cost of attendance. At the end of the day, a law degree is a prestigious honor and takes years of hard work and dedication. Regardless of costs or future salary, it’s always worth pursuing your passion; by maximizing financial aid and scholarships, you can further increase the ROI of a law degree.

Written by
Holly D. Johnson
Author, Award-Winning Writer
Holly Johnson writes expert content on personal finance, credit cards, loyalty and insurance topics. In addition to writing for Bankrate and CreditCards.com, Johnson does ongoing work for clients that include CNN, Forbes Advisor, LendingTree, Time Magazine and more.
Edited by
Student loans editor