Law school isn’t cheap. In 2019, the average annual cost of law school at a public university was $28,186 and $49,312 for private universities according to Law School Transparency. Even in a profession that has the potential to pay well, that’s a lot of money to pay for education.
But if you’re careful about which law school you choose, you can earn your Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree for a lot less money than the averages listed above. And finding a more affordable school could help you minimize the student debt you have to take out during law school.
Top 10 cheapest law schools
If you’re looking to save money on law school, these are the 10 cheapest law school options in the U.S., based on the most recent data available from the Internet Legal Research Group (IRLG) as of June 2021.
1. University of the District of Columbia
Annual in-state tuition: $12,838
Annual out-of-state tuition: $24,674
2. University of North Dakota
Annual in-state tuition: $13,023
Annual out-of-state tuition: $29,644
3. Brigham Young University
Annual in-state tuition: $13,060
Annual out-of-state tuition: $26,120
4. University of Montana
Annual in-state tuition: $13,177
Annual out-of-state tuition: $32,436
5. Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University
Annual in-state tuition: $14,132
Annual out-of-state tuition: $34,035
6. Queens College, City University of New York (CUNY)
Annual in-state tuition: $15,563
Annual out-of-state tuition: $25,463
7. University of Arkansas at Little Rock
Annual in-state tuition: $16,031
Annual out-of-state tuition: $31,974
8. University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Annual in-state tuition: $16,078
Annual out-of-state tuition: $36,918
9. University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
Annual in-state tuition: $16,188
Annual out-of-state tuition: $36,250
10. Southern University
Annual in-state tuition: $16,490
Annual out-of-state tuition: $29,090
Overall best-value law schools
The University of the District of Columbia ended up coming in at No. 1 on our list as the cheapest law school with an annual tuition rate of $12,838.
It’s important to note, though, that this rate only applies to in-state students, which means you must be a resident of the District of Columbia. The chances that you happen to live there are obviously pretty small. And as with most of the schools on our list, tuition is about double at the University of the District of Columbia for out-of-state students.
However, tuition isn’t the only cost of education for many students. If you choose to live on campus, the cost of room and board should also be considered.
When both costs are taken into account, the University of North Dakota turns out to be the cheapest law school. With an in-state tuition of $13,023 and an $8,974 cost of room and board, the total cost of attending the University of North Dakota is $21,977. The University of Arkansas at Little Rock came in second with a $24,291 total cost, and the University of South Dakota came in third at $25,482 (which isn’t listed in the ranking).
Best private law schools
Almost without exception, you’re going to pay more money for a private law school than a public one. Yet, some private schools are more affordable than others. Out of 329 schools ranked, two private schools came in the top 100 in tuition cost.
The University of Tulsa is the cheapest private law school (by a large margin) with annual tuition costs at $25,254. The second private school to make the top 100 was Ohio Northern University with annual tuition of $29,160.
It’s important to note that “private schools” refer to schools that charge the same rate for in-state students as those from out-of-state. Brigham University (No. 3 on our top 10 list), for instance, is technically a private college, but out-of-state students are charged twice as much as residents to attend.
Which schools are just too expensive
The legal world is a bit of an anomaly regarding your choice of school. The biggest law firms that pay the highest salaries really do tend to recruit from the most prestigious schools. Like it or not, this is the reality of the profession.
For this reason, if you’re accepted to one of the top 20 law schools in the nation, attending may be worth it financially, despite the cost. Yes, that sounds crazy — and isn’t the kind of advice we usually give. But it highlights just how unique the legal profession truly is.
That being said, here are a few schools that aren’t in the top 20, yet are very expensive:
- Baylor University: With an annual tuition of $62,432, this school is the 13th most expensive school in the nation, despite the fact that it isn’t even ranked as a top-50 law school by ILRG.
- Yeshiva University: This school’s annual tuition is $60,610.
Rounding out the top five in the “worst for your wallet” category are Fordham University, St. John’s University and Hofstra University, which respectively charge tuition rates of $60,406; $59,480; and $59,214.
How to pay back law school loans
Whether you choose one of the most prestigious schools that cost a fortune or one one of the most affordable law schools from this list, you may end with some student loans after law school.
When it comes to paying back law school loans, Student Loan Planner® has found two main strategies typically work the best.
The first strategy is enrolling in an income-driven repayment plan and saving up for the tax bomb you’ll owe on the forgiven balance. The second is refinancing your student loans to a lower interest rate and aggressively paying them back as quickly as you can.
To help you decide which strategy would be best for your situation, set up an appointment with a consultant to discuss your repayment strategy.
Haven’t enrolled in law school yet? Even better. You can get set up for a predebt consult to make sure you’re familiar with all of the student loan rules before taking out any student debt.