Law Students

Law School Transparency Underestimates Law School Student Debt
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The estimates for the debt that law students incur were recalculated by the Law School Transparency after it discovered that multiple schools underestimated cost-of-living amounts they sent to the U.S. News & World Report. It has been found that on average, law schools have underreported those numbers by $5,000 and this is according to Kyle McEntee, the executive director of the Law School Transparency. McEntee also said that the organization made mistakes when it dealt with the data from U.S. News, which aided in the problems that ensued.

When the numbers were recalculated, using the cost-of-living numbers reported by law schools on their websites, the estimates increased. For students enrolling next fall in law schools, for the Class of 2015, the newly estimated figure comes in at $210,796. The original estimate for that class came in at $195,265. The cost-of-living estimate for the Class of 2016 comes in at $216,406. The old estimate was $200,595. The new estimates assume that the law school students rely on loans at the federal level to pay for the complete cost of tuition and living while law school students at public schools pay non-resident tuition costs. The new estimates take into account tuition increases, interest and inflation.


A professor from Case Western Reserve University School of Law, Jonathan Adler, found the discrepancy for the cost-of-living estimates. Adler found differences in the estimates that were provided by law schools within the same metropolitan locations. Adler provided an example from the City University of New York and the numbers it reported to U.S. News. The school said its estimated cost-of-living figures come in at $7,425 but it posted a cost-of-living of $17,943 on its website.

The transfer of information from U.S. News by the Law School Transparency regarding the City University of New York was done incorrectly and it did not account for the $8,691 the school says is for miscellaneous expenses. The figure sent by the school to the U.S. News of $7,425 accounted only for room and board, according to McEntee. Vivian Todini, the spokeswoman from the City University of New York, said that the housing budget for the school is determined by a central administration and it was $825 per month in 2010 for the academic year.

Adler decided to chastise the Law School Transparency on May 3 in a post he wrote for Volokh Conspiracy blog because they did not catch the discrepancies with the data.

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“Law schools deserve criticism for their relative lack of transparency, as does U.S. News insofar as it publishes inaccurate information or presents a misleading picture of specific schools,” Adler wrote. “But the self-appointed watchmen of law school transparency should be held to a high standard as well, and need to be more careful about presenting false or misleading information themselves, whatever the source.”

McEntee did apologize for the mistakes. He called them ‘deeply embarrassing.’ McEntee then questioned why the figures sent by schools to the U.S. News were different than what the schools posted on their websites.

“It’s better to get the data straight from the schools themselves rather than through a third party,” McEntee said back in May. “That’s what we’ll do from now on, as much as possible.”



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