Law school price hits new high at Columbia, with others close behind

Columbia Law School graduates hold inflatable hammers during Columbia University’s commencement ceremony in Manhattan, New York, U.S., May 18, 2022. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

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

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

Columbia now sets its tuition at $110,450 for the current academic year, appearing to beat the estimate of any other law school. The figure includes Manhattan Law School tuition of $75,572, as well as living expenses and miscellaneous university fees.

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

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

Muller sparked discussion about the price of attendance at Columbia and its peer schools this week when he tweeted about the latest cost estimates. The estimated annual cost of New York University Law School is $109,290; Harvard and Stanford come in at $107,000; the University of Chicago estimate is about $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 estimated annual cost to the public University of Iowa Law School, where Muller teaches, is just under $50,000 for Iowa residents.

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

Muller said the “stunning” numbers for law school costs this year are tied to increases in partner compensation at large law firms that are recruiting heavily from top-ranked law schools. A war for legal talent has boosted starting partner salaries from $190,000 to $215,000 at many large firms over the past year, helping well-educated law graduates pay off heavy student loans.

Columbia sent the largest percentage of its 2021 JD graduates into full-time legal jobs of any law school, according to data from the American Bar Association. Nearly 65% ​​of these graduates have found employment in law firms with 500 or more lawyers, which tend to pay the highest salaries.

ABA data shows that most Columbia students receive financial aid, although a relatively small percentage get scholarships of half tuition or more. Law schools at Yale and Stanford recently added full scholarships for students from low-income families.

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Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Jon J. Epps