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Cost-Benefit Analysis of American Law Schools

Compiled in 1996, the following table re-ranks "the top 50 law schools"--as designated by U. S. News & World Report--in terms of cost-of-living adjusted median salary, ranked from lowest to highest.

For the cost-of-living data, the average of the COL indices available was used for all cities in the state where the law school is located, with seven exceptions. For Yale, University of Connecticut, Harvard, and Rutgers-Newark, the New York cost-of-living average was used. For Duke, University of Virginia, and Vanderbilt, the Washington, D. C. cost-of-living average was used.

Obviously, the table below is only a rough approximation, but it reflects the reality that most schools in the top 50 have a primarily regional reach. This view is borne out by the employment location data for each school, as supplied in the directory portion of the 1996 USN&WR Best Graduate Schools Special Edition, the source for most of the data. The majority of the cost-of-living indices are pulled from the ACCRA homepage and reflect the cost-of-living in each state's larger MSAs, which is where the NALP firms are almost always located. For those few states without even one representative MSA on the current ACCRA homepage (Q4 1995), the ACCRA data (Q1 1994) was substituted from Table 766 in the 1995 edition of the Statistical Abstract of the U.S. As all figures are normalized to 100, the national average COL for that period, merging the two data sets probably has a negligible impact on the results.

CAVEAT: Any cost-benefit analysis of this sort is necessarily incomplete for at least three noteworthy reasons. Firstly, the rankings do not take into account grants that knock down the "sticker" price. Secondly, the rankings ignore subsequent raises and partnership earning potential, etc. Lastly, calculating a median starting salary for each school depends upon recent graduates' providing salary information to their school. To the extent a lower percentage of graduates disclose salary information to their school, results may be skewed. All of these objections are valid.

What the table below attempts to do is to create a first-draft analysis based upon widely available data. It is by no means perfect, but, perhaps, it is better than operating wholly in the dark. These rankings are intended to give potential students an idea of the value of a median starting salary if they plan to practice in the same region in which the law school is located. Lastly, this analysis has been included in the ILRG as a public service. The inclusion of it does not constitute an endorsement of the methodology.

Graph is best viewed at 1024x768 resolution.
New Rank
(
U. S. News & World Report
Rank)
School Name ST Enroll
-ment
Avg. Salary Cost of
Living
Adjusted
Equiv.
Percent
Report
-ing
Percent
Employed
Within
6 Months
Percent
Receiving
Grants
Yearly
Tuition
Yearly
State
Tuition
Yearly
Room & Board
Three
Year
Total Cost
Mo.
Pay
-ment
for Loan
Annual
Pay
-ment
for Loan
Annual Pay
-ment as % of Start
-ing Salary
Annual Payment as % of COL Adjusted Salary
1 (27) U. of Georgia GA 641 58,000 58,468 46% 92% 26% 8,237 2,955 6,840 45,231 555 6,657 11.48% 11.39%
2 (32) BYU UT 461 45,500 47,544 54% 95% 52% 4,600   8,350 38,850 477 5,718 12.57% 12.03%
3 (46) U. of Houston TX 811 52,000 54,622 52% 86% 18% 8,838 4,963 9,086 53,772 660 7,914 15.22% 14.49%
4 (18) U. of Texas TX 1468 53,000 55,672 80% 89% 75% 11,360 5,340 10,152 64,536 792 9,499 17.92% 17.06%
5 (48) Ohio State OH 691 50,000 50,556 34% 87% 65% 13,980 5,860 7,330 63,930 784 9,409 18.82% 18.61%
6 (25) Notre Dame IN 540 57,000 59,067 85% 95% 27% 18,420   7,150 76,710 941 11,290 19.81% 19.11%
7 (47) U. of Tenn. - Knoxville TN 477 38,000 38,657 39% 92% 29% 8,958 3,564 8,074 51,096 627 7,520 19.79% 19.45%
8 (40) U. of Florida FL 1082 43,400 42,362 45% 86% 40% 10,776 3,396 7,920 56,088 688 8,255 19.02% 19.49%
9 (34) UNC - Chapel Hill NC 696 45,000 44,955 68% 83% 12% 12,397 2,243 8,728 63,375 777 9,328 20.73% 20.75%
10 (9) U. of Virginia VA 1152 75,500 61,183 92% 97% 41% 18,694 10,290 10,135 86,487 1,061 12,729 16.86% 20.81%
11 (23) U. of Washington WA 509 50,000 48,544 77% 87% 60% 11,893 4,789 11,053 68,838 844 10,132 20.26% 20.87%
12 (36) U. of Utah UT 366 40,000 41,797 61% 90% 47% 10,116 4,516 10,143 60,777 745 8,945 22.36% 21.40%
13 (20) Washington and Lee VA 373 50,000 50,050 72% 88% 71% 15,471   8,895 73,098 897 10,759 21.52% 21.50%
14 (30) William & Mary VA 524 54,000 54,054 80% 93% 35% 16,324 6,074 10,130 79,362 973 11,681 21.63% 21.61%
15 (33) U. of Iowa IA 682 44,000 44,310 65% 85% 42% 12,876 4,660 8,820 65,088 798 9,580 21.77% 21.62%
16 (50) U. of Arizona AZ 480 44,000 43,393 51% 87% 66% 9,978 3,950 11,850 65,484 803 9,638 21.90% 22.21%
17 (21) U. of Minnesota MN 811 46,000 45,590 95% 93% 19% 14,124 8,228 8,964 69,264 850 10,194 22.16% 22.36%
18 (19) U. of IL - Urbana IL 623 53,000 43,586 87% 94% 37% 14,136 5,000 8,244 67,140 823 9,882 18.65% 22.67%
19 (37) Ind. U. at Bloom. IN 615 42,250 43,782 83% 87% 31% 12,990 4,926 9,511 67,503 828 9,935 23.52% 22.69%
20 (43) U. of Wisconsin - Mad. WI 884 46,000 42,991 75% 85% 61% 13,488 5,211 8,830 66,954 821 9,855 21.42% 22.92%
21 (12) UC Berkeley CA 858 67,000 52,735 89% 94% 53% 16,499 8,800 10,897 82,188 1,008 12,097 18.05% 22.94%
22 (17) UCLA CA 924 70,000 55,096 59% 92% 43% 16,481 8,782 13,148 88,887 1,090 13,083 18.69% 23.75%
23 (7) U. of MI - Ann Arbor MI 1117 70,000 60,397 81% 92% 42% 22,020 15,820 12,180 102,600 1,258 15,101 21.57% 25.00%
24 (14) Northwestern IL 606 70,000 57,566 88% 89% 40% 20,128   12,532 97,980 1,202 14,421 20.60% 25.05%
25 (23) Emory GA 730 52,000 52,419 69% 92% 30% 19,600   10,820 91,260 1,119 13,432 25.83% 25.62%
26 (3) Stanford CA 570 71,000 55,884 99% 96% 40% 22,350   10,506 98,568 1,209 14,508 20.43% 25.96%
27 (45) UC Hastings CA 1209 66,000 51,948 56% 74% 70% 15,874 8,175 14,801 92,025 1,129 13,545 20.52% 26.07%
28 (12) Georgetown DC 1526 73,000 59,157 98% 94% 34% 21,280   13,790 105,210 1,290 15,485 21.21% 26.18%
29 (42) Rutgers - Newark NJ 734 62,000 34,589 53% 88% 15% 12,243 8,488 8,363 61,818 758 9,099 14.68% 26.31%
30 (4) U of Chicago IL 544 70,000 57,566 85% 96% 45% 21,528   12,837 103,095 1,264 15,174 21.68% 26.36%
31 (44) Case Western OH 620 47,000 47,523 50% 86% 31% 18,300   10,070 85,110 1,044 12,527 26.65% 26.36%
32 (8) U. of Pennsylvania PA 741 70,000 54,945 92% 94% 32% 20,664   12,786 100,350 1,231 14,770 21.10% 26.88%
33 (50) Villanova PA 690 62,200 48,823 35% 87% 6% 17,200   12,590 89,370 1,096 13,154 21.15% 26.94%
34 (49) Tulane LA 1013 53,000 52,527 69% 76% 36% 21,286   11,030 96,948 1,189 14,269 26.92% 27.17%
34 (15) USC CA 634 70,000 55,096 75% 94% 54% 21,566   12,596 102,486 1,257 15,084 21.55% 27.38%
36 (16) Vanderbilt TN 559 62,000 50,243 76% 95% 47% 19,750   12,500 96,750 1,187 14,240 22.97% 28.34%
37 (29) Boston U MA 1098 68,000 48,956 64% 83% 40% 19,676   11,840 94,548 1,160 13,916 20.46% 28.43%
38 (10) Duke NC 593 63,000 51,053 98% 98% 67% 21,200   11,923 99,369 1,219 14,625 23.21% 28.65%
39 (41) UC Davis CA 463 51,000 40,142 90% 81% 63% 16,495 8,796 9,555 78,150 959 11,502 22.55% 28.65%
40 (22) George Washington DC 1310 66,000 53,485 89% 92% 45% 21,092   13,680 104,316 1,279 15,354 23.26% 28.71%
41 (35) Wake Forest NC 473 40,000 39,960 81% 93% 16% 16,600   11,100 83,100 1,019 12,231 30.58% 30.61%
42 (1) Yale CT 573 82,000 45,746 95% 99% 39% 21,660   10,550 96,630 1,185 14,222 17.34% 31.09%
43 (26) Boston College MA 829 62,000 44,636 78% 87% 30% 20,180   11,605 95,355 1,170 14,035 22.64% 31.44%
44 (39) U CO at Boulder CO 498 35,000 33,686 70% 79% 40% 14,630 4,394 10,100 74,190 910 10,920 31.20% 32.42%
45 (5) Columbia NY 1071 83,000 46,304 85% 96% 30% 23,178   12,000 105,534 1,294 15,533 18.71% 33.55%
46 (6) NYU NY 1330 85,000 47,420 100% 97% 25% 22,144   14,485 109,887 1,348 16,174 19.03% 34.11%
47 (31) Washington Univ. MO 622 42,000 43,796 63% 93% 55% 19,380   15,331 104,133 1,277 15,327 36.49% 35.00%
48 (11) Cornell NY 567 70,000 39,052 75% 95% 43% 21,135   11,765 98,700 1,211 14,527 20.75% 37.20%
49 (2) Harvard MA 1658 72,000 40,167 87% 97% 28% 20,500   13,790 102,870 1,262 15,141 21.03% 37.69%
50 (28) Fordham NY 1127 67,500 37,657 83% 92% 47% 20,499   14,426 104,775 1,285 15,421 22.85% 40.95%
51 (38) U CT CT 425 58,000 32,357 50% 88% 25% 21,194 10,136 13,200 103,182 1,266 15,187 26.18% 46.93%



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