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Average Debt of Private Law School Grads Is $125K; It's Highest at These Five Schools


Corrected and updated: The average education debt for law grads at private schools last year was nearly $125,000, while the average for grads of public law schools was more than $75,700, according to new figures released by the ABA.

The debt load increased 17.6 percent from the prior year for private law grads and 10 percent for public law grads, the Daily Journal (sub req.) reports. In 2001-02, the average debt was only about $46,500 for public law school grads and about $70,000 for private law school grads.

The figures on average student debt could be even higher. On Friday, the ABA asked law schools to double check whether they submitted incorrect statistics after some school officials raised concerns that they may have underreported the numbers.

Meanwhile, U.S. News & World Report has released its own figures on the “10 law schools that lead to the most debt.” At those 10 schools, average student debt was more than $145,000 in 2011.

U.S. News lists these top five law schools for the highest debt, based on 191 schools that reported the numbers:

1) California Western School of Law, with average debt of $153,145.

2) Thomas Jefferson School of Law in California, with average debt of $153,006.

3) American University in Washington, D.C., with average debt of $151,318.

4) New York Law School, with average debt of $146,230.

5) Phoenix School of Law, with average debt of $145,357.

The law school with the least student debt was Georgia State University, with average debt of $19,971.

U.S. News originally reported that students at John Marshall Law School in Chicago had the most debt, with an average debt load of $165,178. The school has since notified the publication that it erred in reporting the numbers; the correct figure is $136,486.

As of Friday morning, no schools had told U.S. News that they had underreported debt numbers. U.S. News asks law schools to provide the same debt numbers given to the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, which accredits law schools. In any event, debt figures are not used by U.S. News in compiling its rankings.

Hat tip to the Wall Street Journal Law Blog.

Story updated on March 29 to reflect correction by U.S. News. The change took John Marshall off the list, and resulted in a lower number for average student debt at the 10 schools with the highest debt loads. Story updated on March 30 to reflect ABA revelation that some schools may have underreported debt figures.

Subsequent coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Law Schools Asked to Double Check: Did They Give ABA Low Numbers on Student Debt?”

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