Unless you've bought a house or a condominium, law school will almost certainly be the most expensive purchase you’ve ever made. At Columbia, the top-ranked law school in New York City, tuition and fees for 2015-16 are $65,252. At NYU, tuition and fees are $61,644. At Touro Law Center, tuition and fees are $48,410. Multiply this by three years, add living costs of approximately $24,000 a year, and you will see why going to law school involves an investment in yourself of $220,000 to $270,000.
Obtaining the money to pay for law school requires careful planning. Almost every law school provides merit-based aid, which at New York City law schools is principally based on your LSAT score. This means that even if you have an LSAT high enough to be admitted, you should consider retaking the LSAT, since a gain of even two points could mean $30,000 more towards law school tuition. You should discuss this strategy with a prelaw advisor.
Law schools also offer some need-based aid, but this often takes into account parental income. Students who receive need-based aid are usually expected to take out loans towards their tuition and living expenses, and the ratio of aid to loans varies from school to school. There are a variety of loan programs available, and payments are usually deferred until several months after graduation. There are even loans available to pay for two months of living expenses while you are studying for the bar.
Students who attend law school with little or no scholarship assistance are likely to face six-figure indebtedness after graduation, which may mean monthly loan payments of $2000+. While graduates who work for top-level law firms may be able to pay these loans back in a few years, those who are not so fortunate may face decades of loan payments. While there are partial loan forgiveness programs for those who work in public service legal positions, loan repayment is an issue that all potential law students should seriously examine before making the quarter-million dollar commitment to law school.