If you’re already attending college as an undergraduate, you’re aware that higher education isn’t cheap. Costs continue to rise as public universities struggle with more students and less federal and state money. If you’re considering law school, you should be aware of the costs.
Tuition between law schools varies widely. Tuition at top tier schools, which include some Ivy League universities, can be more than double than that of state universities. U.S. News and World Report issues a Best Law Schools report annually, which includes ranking and current tuition.
Here’s a sampling from the 2013 report of tuition costs for several full-time programs at schools ranking at the top, in the middle and at the bottom:
Though the top three law schools certainly have some of the highest tuitions, ranking doesn’t always dictate tuition. One of the lowest ranking schools, the University of San Francisco, has tuition rates much higher than many schools with better rankings.
The ranking of the law school you choose can make a big difference when it comes time to find your first job—those who have attended top tier schools will often be first in line for the highest paying positions. However, that’s not to say that attending other schools keeps you from getting a great job. Talk to the admissions offices at the schools you’re interested in about where they’ve placed their graduates.
In addition to tuition, you’ll need to pay for living expenses while attending law school. Many schools insist that students do not work, at least during their first year. Law school is rigorous and requires many hours of study outside the classroom, so earning money by working during school may not be feasible.
The cost of living varies widely from state to state. Living in Boston is much more expensive than living in Boise. Make sure to check out housing when considering the costs of law school—both on-campus and off.
If you’ll be traveling home very often, the cost of travel may factor into your costs. Attending school in your hometown, or in a nearby state allows you to see family and friends more often—living across the country requires airfare.
Keep in mind that some state schools charge more tuition for out-of-state students—up to 1/3 more. Students typically achieve in-state status after 12 months of living in the state. If you plan on attending a school that calculates tuition by residency, it’s wise to move to that state as soon as possible.