For many prospective lawyers, deciding to go to law school is the biggest financial decision of their life — at least up until that point. Now figuring out what that actually entails is going to be a whole lot easier.
Law schools will have to report figures including their total cost of attendance, average amount borrowed to pay for school, and typical graduate earnings. All of that information will be compiled on a new Education Department website, and programs with high debt levels and low graduate earnings over a two-year period will be subject to a new disclosure requirement to ensure that prospective students understand the risks.
Collection of the new data begins in July 2024, and disclosure for programs below the established debt-to-earning threshold starts in 2026.
While some of the data collected has been available previously, requiring all of the info in a single location is pretty significant.
The ABA in recent years has required law schools to provide more detailed information about the types of jobs that graduates secure, but the school specific-data on its website does not include average debt loads or graduate earnings — though some of that information is available elsewhere.
And, as noted by Aaron Taylor, executive director of AccessLex Institute’s Center for Legal Education Excellence, you’re likely to see these Department of Education numbers pop up in rankings, “I suspect we will also see the data used in ranking lists and even touted by schools that are judged favorably by the framework.” Something that’s particularly relevant now that so many law school have pulled out of ranking behemoth US News & World Report.
Kathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, host of The Jabot podcast, and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter @Kathryn1 or Mastodon @Kathryn1@mastodon.social.