Law Schools

NIU Law to charge same tuition for residents and nonresidents

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Northern Illinois University

Northern Illinois University College of Law. Photo by Jason Borg, via Wikimedia Commons.

Starting this fall, out-of-state students at Northern Illinois University College of Law will pay the same for tuition and fees as in-state residents, according to the school’s website.

Since the law school made the announcement in December, applications from out-of-state residents are up 49 percent, says Mark Cordes, the law school’s interim dean.

“The numbers are still very small at this point,” says Cordes, also a constitutional law and property law professor.

The school’s preferred application deadline is April 1, but they will continue to take applications until Aug. 1. Overall, Cordes estimates that as of February, the law school had a 26 percent increase in applications.

Law school tuition and fees for in-state residents are $22,177.76 per year, while for out-of-state students it’s $38,432.72 per year. Law students already enrolled from out of state will be grandfathered into the plan.

Out-of-state tuition has already been eliminated at NIU’s undergraduate and graduate schools, Cordes says, which is what led the law school to consider it. Also, there’s been a tuition freeze at the university since the 2015-16 academic year, Indiana Lawyer reports.

“With the elimination of out-of-state tuition, our purpose is to broaden an already attractive option for a number of people out of state, especially for out-of-state residents interested in getting work in the Chicago legal community,” Cordes says. According to Cordes, living expenses in DeKalb, located about 65 miles west of Chicago, are approximately $18,930 a year.

Another NIU perk is that there are tuition waivers for law students who work as graduate assistants. Usually, 25 or more law students have those positions, Cordes says, and they work 10 to 20 hours a week in places including the college of education, the student legal assistance office and the general counsel’s office.

NIU’s cost is less expensive than many law schools, but it is not among the cheapest, says Jerome Organ, a professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis. In 2017, he wrote a piece about trends in net tuition, which found net tuition to be declining the most at middle-ranked law schools because of merit scholarship patterns associated with maintaining or improving rankings.

The University of Akron School of Law in Ohio did away with out-of-state tuition a few years ago, Organ says, and it appears that Penn State Law in University Park and Penn State Dickinson Law in Carlisle have as well.

Other law schools might offer similar deals more selectively, Organ adds, with scholarships to out-of-state students that make up the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition. He hadn’t heard of other law schools with tuition waivers for students working as graduate assistants.

“The actual decision that a student is going to make is partially price, but students have become better consumers, and they are also looking at bar passage rates, employment locations and employment outcomes,” Organ says.

For the July 2017 Illinois bar exam, NIU Law’s pass rate for first-time test takers was 84 percent, according to a school announcement. Out of 88 graduates in the law school’s 2016 class, 52 had full-time, long-term jobs that require law degrees, and 14 had full-time, long-term, JD advantage positions, according to the law school’s employment summary.

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