The U.S. News Short List, separate from our overall rankings, is a regular series that magnifies individual data points in hopes of providing students and parents a way to find which undergraduate or graduate programs excel or have room to grow in specific areas. Be sure to explore The Short List: College and The Short List: Grad School to find data that matters to you in your college or grad school search.
A law education can easily cost students more than the price of a home in some states.
Law graduates from the class of 2013 who borrowed to fund their law school education carried an average debt of $109,371 -- a slight increase from the $108,293 average law school debt among 2012 graduates who borrowed, according to U.S. News data.
Some graduates, though, get their J.D. with minimal debt. Among graduates who borrowed for law school only in the class of 2013 at the Clarke School of Law at the University of the District of Columbia, the average debt was $34,645. The school had the lowest average law school debt for graduates who borrowed out of the 181 ranked institutions that reported data to U.S. News in an annual survey.
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UDC alumni also have something else to brag about: They have one of the highest salary-to-debt ratios, possibly making their loan payments easier to manage.
Brigham Young University's Clark Law School was one of the highest-ranked schools included on the list of 10 schools with low average debt for grads. The Utah school is ranked No. 36, and 2013 alumni who borrowed had an average debt of $56,053. Two schools with the label Rank Not Published also made the list. A school marked RNP is ranked in the bottom one-fourth of its ranking category. U.S. News calculates a rank for the school but has decided not to publish it.
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Among the 10 schools where graduates had the lowest average debt, the average debt was $59,446. Graduates from the Thomas Jefferson School of Law in California had the largest average debt among all schools that reported the data for graduates -- 2013 alumni had an average debt of $180,665.
Below is a list of the 10 schools where 2013 graduates who borrowed for law school had, on average, the least amount of debt. Unranked law schools, which do not submit enough data for U.S. News to calculate a rank, were not considered for this report.
|School name (state)||Average debt load, class of 2013||U.S. News law school rank|
|University of the District of Columbia (Clarke)||$34,645||RNP|
|University of Arkansas--Little Rock (Bowen)||$52,205||121|
|University of South Dakota||$54,352||145|
|Brigham Young University (Clark) (UT)||$56,053||36|
|University of Arkansas--Fayetteville||$62,185||61|
|University of Nebraska--Lincoln||$63,435||54|
|University of North Dakota||$66,763||129|
|University of Wyoming||$67,733||129|
|Southern Illinois University--Carbondale||$67,966||RNP|
|University of Connecticut||$69,124||54|
Don't see your school in the top 10? Access the U.S. News Law School Compass to find student debt data, complete rankings and much more. School officials can access historical data and rankings, including of peer institutions, via U.S. News Academic Insights.
U.S. News surveyed 200 ABA accredited law schools for our 2013 survey of law programs. Schools self-reported myriad data regarding their academic programs and the makeup of their student body, among other areas, making U.S. News' data the most accurate and detailed collection of college facts and figures of its kind. While U.S. News uses much of this survey data to rank schools for our annual Best Law Schools rankings, the data can also be useful when examined on a smaller scale. U.S. News will now produce lists of data, separate from the overall rankings, meant to provide students and parents a means to find which schools excel, or have room to grow, in specific areas that are important to them. While the data comes from the schools themselves, these lists are not related to, and have no influence over, U.S. News' rankings of Best Colleges or Best Graduate Schools. The student debt data above are correct as of April 29, 2014.
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