Cost of attendance
In-depth analysis on law school costs including tuition, grants, debt, cost of living and more.
Law School Tuition in the United States, 1985 - 2019
1985 - 2019
For decades, nominal tuition has significantly outpaced inflation. Students pay much more for elite schools, but price does not scale with outcomes for the rest.
Tuition, also known as "nominal tuition" or "sticker price," continues to climb at U.S. law schools. The following chart reflects the average nominal tuition prices for each category over 35 years, from 1985 to 2019, for all ABA-Approved law schools.
Inflation has been a factor in rising law school prices, but law school tuition increases exceed the inflation rate between 1985 and 2019. In 1985, the average private school tuition was $7,526 (1985 dollars), which would have cost a student $17,871 in 2019. Instead, average tuition was $49,312 (2019 dollars). In other words, private law school was 2.76 times as expensive in 2019 as it was in 1985 after adjusting for inflation.
In 1985, the average public school tuition was $2,006 (1985 dollars) for residents, which would have cost a student $4,763 in 2019. Instead, average tuition was $28,186 (2019 dollars) for residents. In other words, public school was 5.92 times as expensive in 2019 as it was in 1985 after adjusting for inflation.
Nationwide averages from 1985 to 2013 come from the American Bar Association. Starting in 2014, LST calculates the nationwide average from individual schools, using data the schools reported to the American Bar Association. LST uses the Consumer Price Index (CPI-U) for inflation, which covers 89% of the total U.S. population. For an explanation of various indices to compare tuition over time, see this paper. LST uses normal averages rather than weighted averages for the nationwide averages in 2014 and later. The ABA uses normal averages from 1985 to 2013.