Average Law School Debt

Student Loan Debt Crisis Breakdown

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According to several reports, the average law school student graduates with between $100,0000 - $200,000 worth of debt. In 2008, students could attend the average public law school for an estimated $16,800 per year. After three years of attendance, you’ll see that prices for law schools have more than doubled in little over a decade. A six-figure debt burden is not to be taken lightly, so be careful not to let this happen to you.

Are Some Prone to Have More Debt Than Others?

For years, supply overwhelmed demand for lawyers in the job market. There is no guarantee that a law school graduate who passes the bar exam will get a high paying job. For this reason, every prospective law school student needs to consider educational costs and the debt that he or she is willing to accept. While private, for-profit schools are notorious for charging sky-high rates for their law school programs, many public universities offer some reasonable alternatives.

According to a U.S. News & World Report survey, students who attended public law schools such as those at Rutgers, University of Nebraska – Lincoln, and Georgia State University graduated with less than $65,000 worth of student loan debt. Brigham Young University’s Clark Law School serves as an exception, where their overall cost is comparable to that of popular public universities. This private, faith-based university costs about $58,133 to attend, and it ranks higher than the listed public universities. The most expensive private law schools in the country are Columbia, Cornell, and New York University. To attend these schools, law school students commit to tuition rates between $59,330 and $62,700 per year.

Starting Salaries: The Road to Financial Freedom

Even high student debt can pay off big for law school graduates who pass the bar exam and get jobs as lawyers. According to research findings by Earnest, new lawyers make about $140,000 annually. Since their yearly salaries are almost equal to their student loan debt, they have average debt-to-income ratios of one early in their careers. The survey indicated that mid-way through their careers, these lawyers’ debt-to-income ratios go up slightly to 1.01, which means that they make slightly less per year than the cost of their degrees.

Students must consider that expensive, top-tier schools often have strong networks of industry partners and alumni who make getting good jobs easier for their graduates.

The schools’ ranking and prestige in the market also attract employers in some cases.

Qualifying for Law School Student Loan Forgiveness

Many prospective students decide to take the financial plunge and earn their law degrees. Stories of how these smart lawyers paid off massive amounts of student loan debt abound on the internet. They mention everything from investing in real estate to loan consolidation in their quest for financial freedom. For some law school graduates, these are not practical options, however. The good news is that federal aid and federally guaranteed loans are eligible for loan forgiveness. Here are some programs that offer loan forgiveness for law school students.

  • Federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness (FPSLF)
  • Income-Based Repayment (IBR)
  • John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program
  • Law School Loan Forgiveness Programs by School
  • State-Specific Loan Repayment Programs for Lawyers

The FPSLF program forgives loans for lawyers who enter government, military, or other types of public service. It also takes care of lawyers who serve in the Peace Corps and at certain non-profit organizations. To get loans forgiven through IBR programs, lawyers must make a certain amount of payments based upon their income. After the lawyer makes the prearranged number of payments, the rest of her loan is forgiven. Lawyers who serve as public defenders and state prosecutors get debt relief through the John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program.


Some prospective students decide to pursue a law degree based on their personal interests, family traditions, and academic gifts. For others, it’s all about risk versus reward. Being a lawyer is a prestigious and honored profession in most societies. With this information, you gain insight into how to follow your dreams in the most cost-effective way.