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    The cheapest law schools in the U.S. in 2024

    Jeremy Coppock
    Jeremy Coppock

    Jeremy is an education researcher, journalist, and editor for Degreechoices. He majored in Slavic languages and has a master’s degree in Eastern European studies.

    He has previous experience as a fraud analyst, in-house translator, teacher, and truck driver.

    The cheapest law schools in the U.S. in 2024
    Contents

      By tuition, the cheapest law schools are Southern University, the University of South Dakota, and the University of the District of Columbia.

      By lowest debt at graduation, the most affordable law schools are the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Wayne State University, and the University of Alabama.

      The best-value affordable law schools are the University of Iowa, Wayne State University, and the University of Alabama.

      www.degreechoices.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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      Lots of people (maybe yourself included) want to be a lawyer.

      But law school isn’t cheap. Fortunately, not all law schools have exorbitant tuition fees – especially public ones.

      To make your law school search a little easier, we list the cheapest law schools in the U.S. in 2024 both by tuition, and, more tellingly, average debt at graduation.

      We also discuss whether cheap law schools are really worth it economically, or whether it’s better to invest a bit more in your education up front to unlock higher earning potential down the road.

      The 15 cheapest law schools, by tuition

      By annual in-state tuition, the cheapest law school is Southern University, which charges $11,338 in tuition per year. In second and third place are the University of South Dakota ($11,736 per year), and the University of the District of Columbia ($12,438).

      Note that out-of-state students of public law schools usually have to pay higher tuition rates.

      Information on tuition, acceptance rates, LSATs, GPA, and bar passage rates are taken from the latest available 509 information reports (usually pertaining to 2023, unless noted otherwise). The American Bar Association requires law schools to disclose this data to retain accreditation. Tuition figures do not include additional fees.


      1. Southern University – $11,338

      Southern University and A&M College, usually referred to as Southern University or simply Southern, is a public historically Black college (HBCU) in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It is home to the Southern University Law Center.

      • Acceptance rate: 53.46%
      • Median LSAT: 147
      • Median undergrad GPA: 3.23
      • 2023 first-time bar passage rate: 52.94%

      2. University of South Dakota – $11,736

      The University of South Dakota is a public research university in Vermillion. It is the state’s oldest public university. It is home to the Knudson School of Law, the state’s only law school.

      • Acceptance rate: 76.16%
      • Median LSAT: 151
      • Median undergrad GPA: 3.56
      • 2022 first-time bar passage rate: 72.15%

      3. University of the District of Columbia – $12,438

      The University of the District of Columbia, or UDC, is a public university in our nation’s capital. It is an officially designed HBCU (historically black college/university). Its David A. Clarke School of Law offers a J.D. that can be completed in 3 years full-time or in 4 years part-time. UDC offers the cheapest law school tuition in the country for in-state students.

      • Acceptance rate: 44.34%
      • Median LSAT: 151
      • Median undergrad GPA: 3.35
      • 2023 first-time bar passage rate: 47.92%

      4. Texas Southern University – $12,645

      Texas Southern University is a public historically Black university located in Houston, Texas. It offers the 4th lowest in-state tuition rates for law school in the country. It is home to the Thurgood Marshall School of Law.

      • Acceptance rate: 39.65%
      • Median LSAT: 150
      • Median undergrad GPA: 3.16
      • 2022 first-time bar passage rate: 44.51%

      5. University of Arkansas, Little Rock – $13,352

      University of Arkansas at Little Rock is a public university in the state’s capital. It is home to the William H. Bowen School of Law. The school features small class sizes, and students can choose a part-time evening track.

      • Acceptance rate: 59.17%
      • Median LSAT: 152
      • Median undergrad GPA: 3.42
      • 2022 first-time bar passage rate: 70.29%

      6. North Carolina Central University – $13,444

      North Carolina Central University (NCCU, or NC Central) is a public, historically black university in Durham. It is home to the NCCU School of Law.

      • Acceptance rate: 34.62%
      • Median LSAT: 148
      • Median undergrad GPA: 3.37
      • 2023 bar passage rate: 56.59%

      7. Florida A&M University – $13,676

      Florida A&M University, or Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU), is a public historically Black university in Tallahassee. It is the 3rd largest HBCU in the U.S. and the only one in Florida. The FAMU College of Law is known for its commitment to social justice and the public good.

      • Acceptance rate: 35.83%
      • Median LSAT: 151
      • Median undergrad GPA: 3.50
      • 2023 first-time bar passage rate: 40.20%

      8. Brigham Young University – $15,076

      Brigham Young is a private religious university in Provo, Utah. It is affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (also known as the Mormon Church). Its law school offers the 3rd cheapest tuition in the country. While Brigham Young provides affordable tuition to both in-state and out-of-state students, the school’s strict rules of moral conduct may mean it’s not a great fit for non-LDS students.

      • Acceptance rate: 28.77%
      • Median LSAT: 168
      • Median undergrad GPA: 3.94
      • 2023 first-time bar passage rate: 95.41%

      9. University of Nebraska Lincoln – $15,120

      The University of Nebraska College of Law is a public law school located in the city of Lincoln. It aims to “develop inclusive leaders who advance justice, solve problems, and serve with integrity.”

      • Acceptance rate: 65.90%
      • Median LSAT: 158
      • Median undergrad GPA: 3.75
      • 2023 first-time bar passage rate: 76.19%

      10. CUNY School of Law – $15,450

      CUNY Law is a public law school in New York City. It is part of the City University of New York (CUNY) system, which is well known for its affordability. It has a special focus on public interest law.

      • Acceptance rate: 39.89%
      • Median LSAT: 153
      • Median undergrad GPA: 3.51
      • 2023 first-time bar passage rate: 55.88%

      11. University of Arkansas-Fayetteville – $15,500

      The University of Arkansas-Fayetteville is home to the University of Arkansas’ Law School. It is a public institution. The information below is for 2022.

      • Acceptance rate: 41.17%
      • Median LSAT: 156
      • Median undergrad GPA: 3.60
      • 2022 first-time bar passage rate: 81.91%

      12. University of North Dakota – $15,748

      University of North Dakota is a public research university in Grand Forks. The UND School of Law is the only law school in the state. This program prefers candidates with ties to North Dakota. If offers the 2nd cheapest law school tuition for in-state students in the country.

      • Acceptance rate: 62.01%
      • Median LSAT: 150
      • Median undergrad GPA: 3.37
      • 2023 first-time bar passage rate: 60.71%

      13. Georgia State University – $15,768

      Georgia State University is a public university in Atlanta. It is the largest university in the state. It is home to the Georgia State College of Law. Its J.D. program offers full-time, part-time, day, and evening options.

      • Acceptance rate: 31.03%
      • Median LSAT: 160
      • Median undergrad GPA: 3.60
      • 2023 first-time bar passage rate: 78.53%

      14. University of Tennessee-Knoxville – $16,696

      The University of Tennessee, Knoxville (known as UTK or simply Tennessee) is a large public research university. The University of Tennessee College of Law was founded in 1890.

      • Acceptance rate: 30.21%
      • Median LSAT: 162
      • Median undergrad GPA: 3.78
      • 2023 first-time bar passage rate: 83.65%

      15. Southern Illinois University – $16,957

      The Southern Illinois University School of Law is one of the 4 public law schools in the state of Illinois. It is in the town of Carbondale.

      • Acceptance rate: 60.47%
      • Median LSAT: 149
      • Median undergrad GPA: 3.30
      • 2023 first-time bar passage rate: 65.67%

      Average law school debt

      The average law student graduates with $118,649 in debt.

      To arrive at this number, we took the weighted average of the weighted average debt at graduation for each law school that submits data to IPEDS, a primary source on higher education maintained by the National Center for Education Statistics.

      www.degreechoices.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

      Save money on law school with an online degree

      Answer a few simple questions and we’ll help you find the JD program that’s perfect for you.

      Most affordable law schools, by debt at graduation

      The cost of law school is more than just tuition – you’ll also need loans to cover room and board while you study. At the same time, financial aid can help mitigate your debt burden.

      For these reasons, average debt at graduation is a better way to measure law schools’ true cost than tuition rates.

      “Average debt at graduation is a better way to measure law schools’ true cost than tuition rates.”

      The most affordable law schools, whose graduates have the lowest average debt when they receive their JD, are the University of Nebraska, Lincoln ($51,535 in debt) and Wayne State University ($57,388 in debt).

      Tied in 3rd place, with an average debt burden of $61,500 each, are 6 schools: the University of Alabama, University of Wisconsin, Madison, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, University of Kansas, University of Arkansas, and the University of North Dakota.

      Note that the average graduate of Southern University, the law school with the cheapest in-state tuition, leaves with an average of $117,500 in loans –putting it 96th on the list of affordable law schools by debt at graduation!

      Certain colleges have not disclosed debt data to the government, so we couldn’t rank them.

      Also note that some very affordable law schools may only accept students from in-state. Likewise, keep in mind that the cheapest law schools may not be the easiest to get into.

      Law school Average debt at graduation
      University of Nebraska, Lincoln $51,535
      Wayne State University $57,388
      University of Alabama  $61,500
      University of Wisconsin, Madison $61,500
      University of Tennessee, Knoxville $61,500
      The University of Arkansas $61,500
      University of North Dakota $61,500
      University of Iowa $62,250
      University of Missouri, Columbia $63,084
      University of Cincinnati $67,092
      University of Toledo $67,099
      Georgia State University $67,293
      Northern Illinois University $68,443
      University of Mississippi $69,108
      The University of Montana $69,239
      University of Arkansas at Little Rock $69,547
      Drexel University $69,558
      Washburn University  $70,301
      University of Akron $70,624

      Honorable mentions

      The law schools below are the cheapest in America’s most populous states – by average debt at graduation.

      Cheapest law schools in California

      California law school Average debt at graduation
      Humphreys University, Stockton and Modesto $86,955
      University of California, Davis $89,716
      University of California, Los Angeles $121,453

      Cheapest law schools in Florida

      Florida law school Average debt at graduation
      Florida State University $71,688
      University of Florida $87,177
      Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University $103,672

      Cheapest law schools in New York

      New York law school Average debt at graduation
      University at Buffalo $93,675
      Pace University $102,821
      Syracuse University $102,984

      Cheapest law schools in Texas

      Texas law school Average debt at graduation
      Texas A & M University, College Station $79,788
      University of Houston $84,249
      Texas Tech University $85,528

      Does it matter what law school you go to?

      Unfortunately, yes. Many law firms care a lot about your alma mater. As a result, there is a huge difference in average earnings between top law schools and the rest.

      Just 4 years after getting their J.D., the average earnings of law school graduates nationally is $111,390 (among law schools disclosing data to IPEDS).

      Meanwhile, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average lawyer’s salary is $145,760 per year.

      However, alumni of the law schools with the greatest earning potential are bringing home much larger salaries: the law schools with the highest-earning grads, 4 years on, are Columbia ($280,926 per year), the University of Pennsylvania ($261,434), and the University of Chicago ($256,407).

      This stands in stark contrast to the law schools with the lowest-earning grads, 4 years after graduation, which are Ohio Northern University ($42,622 per year), Oklahoma City University ($48,927), and Faulkner University ($53,939).

      According to the BLS, the lowest paid 10% of lawyers earn just $69,760.

      Because even a cheap law degree entails a large amount of student debt, earning a low salary as a lawyer can put you in a financial trap where you can’t pay back your student loans.

      KEY TAKEAWAY

      Many prestigious law firms care a lot about where you got your J.D.; graduating from a law school perceived as less prestigious, and then earning a low salary as a lawyer, could leave you unable to pay back your student loans.

      So, are cheap law schools worse?

      4 years after graduating, graduates of the top 20 most affordable law schools (by average debt) listed above earn weighted average salaries of $77,693 per year. The weighted average debt at graduation for these law schools is $64,569.

      This gives these 20 law schools an average debt-to-earnings ratio of 0.85. This is significantly better than the average for all the schools in our data set, which have a debt-to-earnings ratio of 1.18.

      In other words, while these affordable law schools don’t typically unlock sky-high salaries, their lower prices compensate, making them a better deal than the average law degree.

      Best affordable law schools

      We rank colleges by value for money using a special formula that uses debt and earnings data to generate an “economic score.” The lower the economic score, the better.

      Law schools with a low economic score provide the optimal combination of low average debt and high earnings.

      To determine the best affordable law schools, we calculated what programs among the top 25% most affordable law schools (by average debt) have the best economic score.

      Thus, by this metric, the best affordable law schools are the University of Iowa, Wayne State University, and the University of Alabama.

      Law school Average earnings Average debt Economic score
      University of Iowa $94,146 $62,250 0.65
      Wayne State University $86,839 $57,388 0.72
      The University of Alabama $89,400 $61,500 0.73
      University of Nebraska, Lincoln $73,448 $51,535 0.77
      Georgia State University $89,252 $67,293 0.79

      Final thoughts

      You may have been dreaming of becoming a lawyer since you were a teenager. The big salaries, cultural cachet, and high-profile courtroom battles make law careers highly appealing.

      Going to a cheap law school (and skipping the LSAT) can make this dream seem more attainable.

      However, remember that not all cheap law schools are good. Before enrolling in a law school based solely on tuition price, check out the average salary of its graduates to determine if it’s worth the debt.

      To do so, navigate to our best law schools ranking page and type in the name of the college you’re interested in in the “search by name” bar to the left. Note that not all colleges disclose data to IPEDS, which is our source for economic outcome data. We have data on 153 law schools in the U.S.

      When choosing a law school, there are other important factors to keep in mind too, such as its bar exam passage rate and employment rate. Get this information by Googling a law school’s name and “ABA disclosures” – all law schools are required by the American Bar Association to publish this information on their website to maintain accreditation.

      Law school can be a big, expensive, and risky decision. Think carefully before taking the plunge.

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