Price of law school hits new high at Columbia, with others close behind

Price of law school hits new high at Columbia, with others close behind

Graduates from the Columbia Law School hold inflatable gavels during the Columbia University commencement ceremony in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., May 18, 2022. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

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  • Between tuition and living costs, the school estimates students will spend $110,450 a year
  • A number of peer schools have estimates above $100,000

(Reuters) – A degree from Columbia Law School opens doors to lucrative law firm jobs, but attending the highly ranked law school in expensive New York City comes with a hefty price tag.

Columbia now pegs its cost of attendance at $110,450 for the current academic year, appearing to beat the estimate of any other law school. The figure includes the Manhattan law school’s $75,572 tuition, plus living expenses and various university fees.

That means a Columbia law student could spend more than $330,000 to complete their three-year degree.

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“It’s a pretty crazy large number,” said University of Iowa law professor Derek Muller. “People will point out, ‘Well, there are scholarships.’ But not everyone gets very big scholarships, and very few get anything for cost of living.”

Muller sparked a discussion about the price of attending Columbia and its peer schools this week when he tweeted about the latest cost estimates. New York University School of Law’s estimated annual cost is $109,290; both Harvard and Stanford come in at $107,000; the University of Chicago’s estimate is roughly $106,000; and Georgetown Law’s is $103,400 per year.

Muller’s alma mater, the University of Notre Dame Law School, gives an estimate of $87,446. The annual estimated cost at the public University of Iowa’s College of Law, where Muller teaches, is just shy of $50,000 for Iowa residents.

A Columbia Law spokeswoman said Thursday that no one from the school was available to comment on its estimate.

Muller said this year’s “eye-popping” law school cost figures are connected to rising associate pay at the large law firms that recruit heavily from top-ranked law schools. A war for legal talent pushed starting associate pay from $190,000 to $215,000 at many major firms over the past year, helping well-credentialed law grads pay back hefty student loans.

Columbia sent the largest percentage of its 2021 J.D. graduates into full-time legal jobs of any law school, according to American Bar Association data. Nearly 65% of those graduates found jobs at law firms of 500 or more lawyers, which tend to pay the highest salaries.

ABA data show that most Columbia students receive some financial aid, though a relatively small percentage get scholarships of half tuition or more. The law schools at Yale and Stanford both recently added full-tuition scholarships for students who come from low-income families.

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