Law: Cost of a Name

August 2, 2007

As I said in my last post, this past weekend I returned to my UG to participate in a workshop that taught teachers about congress.  This was an interesting experience and I confess I learned several things and met several interesting people.  I will provide more details about this later in the week, but for now, I want to talk about something I was asked this weekend.

 When I told somebody that did not know I was going to HLS where I was going, they replied “thats a great school” offhand, and we began to talk about graduate schools in general.  Eventually, the person confessed that they did not understand all of the houpla surrounding the top law schools and said that, given his understanding that you learn the same things at every law school, it seemed like you were paying a lot for a name. 

I have heard this several times, and I myself believed it to some extent, but on the drive home I was thinking about this question and decided to look into it more.

Clearly there are advantages in job placement that come with going to a top school, these are fairly well documented on the internet already and I do not care to rehash them.  What I wanted to look at is the question:  How much are students at top law schools paying for a name? 

To look at this question, I devised a very UNscientific method:  I picked a few areas with several law schools, went to the Princeton Review website and compared tuition of the top school in that market to the rate of another school in that market.  Where there were multiple “Top 15” schools in the same area, I selected the top school to compare to other schools.  Here is what I found:

Boston Area

Harvard Law School:  $37,100

Suffolk:  $35,948

Difference:  $1,152 (3%)

Chicago Area

University of Chicago:  $37,334

Loyola-Chicago:  $31,800

Difference:  $5,534 (15%)

New York Area

Columbia:  $38,120

Yeshiva:  $36,900

Difference:    $1220 (3%)

LA Area

UCLA:  $36,387*

Loyola:  $33,515

Difference:  $2872 (8%)

Washington D.C.

GULC:  $39,330

GW:  $36,310

Difference:  $3020 (8%)

 Average Difference:  $2760 (7%)

So what do these numbers show?  Not much since my method was in no way scientific, but if one were to take a lesson from this, I feel the lesson is that the difference between a “name” and “non-name” school in terms of cost is not as large as most people think (discounting scholarships, which is a huge factor for students picking between two schools).  Although students may very well be paying something more than another for the “same education” the difference here is not as large as most people think.  More disturbing, students attending schools that are not the “big name” school face noticably different job prospects and an uphill climb, but receive little tuition savings for this disadvantage.  Anyway, I do not want to draw conclusions, just put some numbers out there. As for me, I think that an average of less than 3K extra per year makes top schools seem like a steal compared to their peers in the same area. 

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