Which law schools send graduates on to the highest paying jobs with the lowest amount of debt? New data from the U.S. Department of Education offers a comprehensive look at law graduate debt levels and first-year earnings—a new tool that can help aspiring lawyers get an idea of the costs of law school and their probable earning potential upon leaving campus.
Today, we’re looking at the so-called T-14—that is, the top 14 schools in the country as ranked by U.S. News & World Report. We’ve crunched the numbers on their debt-to-earnings ratios, which are based on the median amount of money their graduates took out in federal loans in 2015 and 2016, as well as their median earnings in their first year of repayment. At nine of these schools, graduates on average made more right out of law school than they borrowed to finance their legal educations. (The figures don’t include any undergraduate debt.) At the remaining five, graduates borrowed more than they made initially. That’s a significantly better track record than legal education as a whole, where median debt exceeded first-year earnings at 94% of law schools. Click through to find out more about the debt-to-earnings ratios at these top schools, as we work up to the campus that offers the biggest bang for the buck.
14. We’re kicking things off with Georgetown University Law Center, which is ranked No. 14 by U.S. News and had the highest debt-to-earnings ratio in the T-14 at 1.56. Graduates borrowed a median $163,688 for law school and earned a median salary of $105,000.
13. Next up is No. 9-ranked University of Michigan Law School, where 2015 and 2016 graduates borrowed a median $145,182 and earned a median $126,800 initially. That comes out to a debt-to-earnings ratio of 1.14.
12. The University of California, Berkeley School of Law just edged out Michigan with a debt-to-earnings ratio of 1.12. Graduates took out a median $151,136 in federal loans for law school, and earned a median salary of $135,400 in their first year. Berkeley is No. 10 in the U.S. News rankings.
11. We’ve got a tie for the No. 11 spot on our list. First up is No. 8-ranked University of Virginia School of Law, where graduates borrowed a median $158,376 and earned a median $151,500. That translates to a debt-to-earnings ratio of 1.05.
11. Also with a 1.05 debt-to-earnings ratio is New York University School of Law, which is ranked No. 6 by U.S. News. In 2015 and 2016, its graduates borrowed a median $183,857 and earned a median $175,800, according to the Education Department.
9. Yale Law School is the top-ranked school in the country, according to U.S. News. But it doesn’t come out on top when looking at the debt-to-earnings ratio of its graduates, which is .98. Still, its 2015 and 2016 graduates on average earned slightly more than they borrowed. They took out a median $126,398 in federal loans and earned a median $128,900 in their first year.
8. We’re back in New York, this time at Columbia Law School, which clocked a debt-to-earnings ratio of .92. Its graduates borrowed a median $165,314 and earned a median $180,300—the highest median earnings on our list. The school is ranked. No. 5 by U.S. News.
7. We’re headed to Chicago next, where No.10-ranked Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law landed a debt-to-earnings ratio of .91. Graduates borrowed a median $156,418 in federal loans while bringing in a median first-year salary of $171,900.
6. Cornell Law School posted a debt-to-earnings ratio of .88. In 2015 and 2016, graduates borrowed a median $153,937 while earning a median $175,200. The upstate New York law school is ranked No. 13 by U.S. News.
5. Our second stop in the Windy City brings us to No. 4-ranked University of Chicago Law School. Its median graduate debt was $146,806 while median earnings were $170,500. That translates to a debt-to-earnings ratio of .86.
3. No.-10 ranked Duke Law School posted the third-lowest debt-to-earnings ratio, at .85. Graduates of the Durham, N.C. law school took out a median $138,000 in federal loans and earned a median salary of $162,200 right out of the gate.
2. The school with the second-lowest debt-to-earnings ratio among the T-14 is Harvard Law School, which is ranked No. 3 by U.S. News. Its 2015 and 2016 graduates borrowed a median $133,617 from the federal government and earned a median starting salary of $158,200 for a ratio of .84.
1. Bragging rights for the lowest debt-to-earnings ratio goes to No. 2-ranked Stanford Law School. Its .77 ratio is based on median borrowing of $120,410—the lowest among the T-14—and a median first-year salary of $156,700.