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Can Higher Law School Tuition Really Boost Enrolment?

The rising costs of a college education are hard to ignore. Statistics gathered by the College Board reveal that the average price of tuition at private colleges and universities are up to an alarming $34,740 a year. This translates to some $7,000 in tuition hikes over the past decade, confirming the increasing inaccessibility of quality higher education. However, rising costs don't seem to be fazing prospective law students.

According to a study by Professor Amy Li of the University of Northern Colorado, higher law school fees have only led to higher enrollment rates. The main reasoning behind the logic-defying findings is that students don't think they're just paying for an education, but a status. The premium price only furthers the image of the school as an elite slice of the law school pie, thus spit-shining their employability after graduating. More surprising among the study's findings is that students are more willing to pay higher out-of-pocket prices to attend less prestigious law schools that belong to what Li calls tiers 3 and 4. "[However], this relationship did not hold for the lowest tier of law schools, tier 5, where median LSAT scores were less than 150. Evidently, students were not willing to pay more to attend the lowest tier of law schools, although these law schools also did not observe declines in enrollment when net costs increased," Li concluded.

The professor emphasizes that law schools aren't supposed to fit in the traditional supply and demand economic model. "The product students are getting is more complex than an iPhone," she explains. "It’s a complicated endeavor and students still see value in it and are willing to shoulder more of the costs themselves in hopes that it will pay off in the future.”

At its core, then, is expensive wishful thinking. But what does this mean for students who are just not financially capable? They'll just have to get a leg up on their student loans in order to afford these elite schools. Although the study surmises that law students are generally older and more able to handle loan repayments compared to undergraduates, the numbers are still quite formidable. At present, the costs of in-state tuition and living expenses at public law schools is on average $45,000, and over $67,000 on average at private institutions. This translates to roughly $135,000 - $201,000 in student loans. Therefore, extensive financial planning is required even before one attends a single class at law school, with more and more applicants taking financial aid into account when deciding which programs to attend. Fortunately, Maryville University states that financial aid is available in many forms, and can range from employer-run tuition assistance programs and federal grants, to private grants and scholarships. Some law schools even allow students to participate in Federal Work Study programs that allow working part-time and full-time to help foot their law school bills. However, ThoughtCo cautions that a number of ABA-approved law schools forbid students from working during their first year. At the end of it, the question of whether or not law school is worth pursuing depends on one's ability to reduce debt and find a job that will offset the costs. It's important to assess all options to ensure you get all your loans' worth and get the most of your education and training.


About the Author:

Megan Pierce currently serves as an assistant researcher for a law firm, and freelances as a technical writer for extra income. Her areas of interest include Constitutional Law, Legislative Processes, Criminal Law, Torts, Public Policy, and Bioethics and the Law.

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