Monday, March 07, 2011

Studying Costs at US Law Schools: A Little Comparison with Indonesia

I've just found this rather gloomy article accusing that some US law schools (mostly third and fourth tiers law schools) were tricking people to think that the super expensive tuition fee of those law schools is a good investment for their future, since in reality, many new law graduates later find out that they are succumbed to excessive amount of debt without any proper job to support the repayment. A pity indeed!

Based on the data provided in this site and my own personal research, the general annual cost for studying at a US private university law school, whether it is a top tier or low tier one, is around US$65,000-US$70,000 (meaning that a law student needs to spend around US$200,000 to finish a 3 years JD course!). The cost can be cheaper though if it is a public university, but still, it's expensive from any point of view. If you are interested, you can see the data of various US law schools ranking here.

With such huge amount of tuition fee and living expenses, no wonder law graduates are expecting to find a decent job that can help them to repay the loan as soon as possible. But, with a decline market for lawyers and the economic recession in the US (somehow the case is still the same for 2011), finding jobs are getting harder and harder for law graduates, and the situation is far worse for low tier graduates. Now, what surprises me is the fact that there are many people in the US who actually think that being enrolled in low ranked law schools can actually give them some advantages in competing with top tier graduates, especially when the tuition fees' discrepancy is relatively small. Are these people overestimated themselves, or are they simply the victims of an organized scam by law schools? Time will tell.

If you ask me, I am more interested to know why US law schools are very expensive and whether the same will someday happen in Indonesia. As a comparison, the total tuition fee of my law education for 3.5 years (2001-2005) at the University of Indonesia, an Indonesian public university, is only US$980 (with an exchange rate of US$1 = Rp9,000). Try to compare this with the current annual tuition fee of the University of Washington School of Law, a public university in the US, which reaches US$22,267 for residents and US$32,777 for non-residents. I know that University of Indonesia's tuition fee has increased significantly for the last few years, but I am certain that the total amount is far cheaper than its counterparts in the US.

Another interesting question, does the overall quality of top tier US law schools justify the expensive tuition fee? Hopefully yes, since I'll be going to one of them in September. Wish me luck :p

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