The Problem

 
 

Law School Tuition Is Out of Control.

Many students come to Harvard Law School with the dream of catapulting themselves and their families into the upper class of American society. With the meteoric rise in tuition at the law school over the past twenty years, Harvard has made it increasingly difficult for students from less affluent backgrounds to reap the full benefits of their hard work and intellect. This generation of law school students and recent graduates are the only ones to carry such a heavy debt load, and it is not difficult to imagine that these graduates will feel less inclined to donate to the law school in later years.  

In 2007, tuition at Harvard Law School clocked in at $37,100 [1]. In today's dollars that figure translates to $43,588.23 [2]. However, Harvard Law School tuition currently stands at $59,500, and it is set to increase to $61,650 for the 2017-2018 school year [3]. With room and board, health fees, textbooks, and other fees, the total cost of attendance to attend Harvard Law School during the 2016-2017 school year was $88,600, and it will rise to $92,200 next school year [4]. There's no reason not to believe that the cost of attendance at Harvard Law School will soon eclipse the $100,000 per year mark.

For a student beginning Harvard Law School in the 2017-2018 school year, even if we assumed that cost of attendance and interest rates on federal student loans remain flat, the total cost of financing an HLS JD would be over $310,000 after capitalization [5]! That's wild.

Complaints about the cost of going to Harvard will often fall on deaf ears. After all, Harvard students can often find a job paying $180,000 right after graduation [6]. For anyone who thinks that the cost of a Harvard JD is not a problem, consider a couple of things. 

If you fully finance that Harvard JD, you'll be looking at a monthly payment of about $3,500 [7]. In New York City, after taxes, your net pay would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $8,800 per month [8]. After your minimum loan payment of $3,500, you'd be left with $5,800 each month to rent the average studio apartment in NYC which goes for about $2,965 (a little more than half your net take home after loan payments) [9]. 

Well, no problem. You'll just stay at the firm for 10 years and pay off your loans. However, consider that the “up or out” structure of most firms that pay that 180k starting salary ensures that most associates that begin their careers with the firm are no longer there 8, 9, or 10 years down the line [10].

It wasn’t always this way. In 1983, tuition at the law school was $7,636 ($18,791.18 in 2017 dollars).[11] In 1997, it was $18,460 ($28,018.14 in 2017 dollars) [12]. In the early years of student loans at HLS, loans were seen as a way to increase access and make an elite education an affordable proposition for those of lesser means [13]. With the current rate of tuition, student loans transform from being a god-send to imposing an immense financial and psychological burden. This burden only affects students who can’t afford to pay for law school out of pocket, and thus further contributes to economic inequality by placing unnecessary obstacles in the way of financial freedom and security.

You may still be playing only the tiniest of violins for the students at Harvard Law School. But this problem is not unique to Harvard. Across the country, law school tuition has been rising at an amazing rate affecting students at elite law schools as well as those at schools that are on the verge of losing their accreditation [14]. And as a leader in the legal profession, Harvard sets the tone for what other schools deem appropriate to charge their students. As a result, the rising tide of Harvard Law School tuition sinks all poor and middle class students' boats. 

This website was created with the hope that any student considering Harvard Law School (or any other law school for that matter) can make a decision with open eyes about how much it will really cost.

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[1] http://oir.harvard.edu/fact-book/tuition_graduate

[2] https://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm

[3] http://hls.harvard.edu/dept/sfs/financial-aid-policy-overview/student-financial-aid-budget/

[4] http://hls.harvard.edu/dept/sfs/financial-aid-policy-overview/student-financial-aid-budget/

[5] Calculation based on Student Loan Prism capitalization tool (assumes current 6.31% GradPlus interest rate with a 1L loan accruing 36 months of unpaid interest, a 2L loan accruing 24 months of unpaid interest, and a 3L loan accruing 12 months of unpaid interest.

[6] http://abovethelaw.com/2016/06/breaking-ny-to-180k-cravath-raises-associate-base-salaries/

[7] Monthly payment calculation based on Student Loan Prism monthly payment tool and assumes the current 6.31% GradPlus interest rate.

[8] Salary calculations made on www.paycheckcity.com based on a single filer.  

[9] http://www.mns.com/manhattan_rental_market_report

[10] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Up_or_out#Private_sector

[11] Harvard University Fact Book 2002-2003, http://oir.harvard.edu/files/huoir/files/harvard_fact_book_2002-2003.pdf

[12] Harvard University Fact Book 2002-2003, http://oir.harvard.edu/files/huoir/files/harvard_fact_book_2002-2003.pdf

[13] Griswold, Erwin N., and Louis A. Toepfer. “HARVARD'S EXPERIENCE WITH LOANS TO LAW STUDENTS.” Journal of Legal Education, vol. 17, no. 3, 1965, pp. 329–332., www.jstor.org/stable/42891672.

[14] The Charlotte School of Law, for example, charged $42,320 in tuition during the 2016-2017 academic year, http://www.charlottelaw.edu/tuition.html; The school has also been put on probation by the American Bar Association http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/local/article115515788.html.