Federal Investment

Document Type

Database/Data File

Publication Date



tuition, student loans, federal financial aid policy


Law students borrow from the U.S. Department of Education Direct Loan Program for school. These loans are income-generating assets for the government. The government is investing in not only law students, who will repay loans (in theory) with interest, but also law schools. Some (or many) law schools would close without federal investment because schools depend on tuition revenue to stay open and students depend on federal student loans to pay tuition and cover living expenses. Federal student loan policy dictates that the government will lend the full cost of attendance to anyone who attends an ABA-approved law school. If the government changes this lending policy, for example by limiting or eliminating Graduate Plus loans, private lenders may fill some of the lending market, though presumably not all of it.

School-specific borrowing data come from U.S. News & World Report, which relies on data reported to U.S. News by law schools. In a few cases over the years, law schools did not report the percentage borrowing properly. When that occurs, the previous year's rate is used unless a school reports the correct rate to Law School Transparency or a better estimate can be generated. Graduate data come from the American Bar Association.

To calculate the amount cumulatively borrowed by law school graduates from a law school, LST multiplied the number of graduates times the percentage of those graduates borrowing loans that were processed by the school. LST rounded that number to the nearest whole graduate and multiplied it times the average amount borrowed for that school. The federal government investment figures do not include students who never graduated and those enrolled in non-J.D. programs. The adjusted federal investment figures apply group averages to the schools with unknown borrowing data. LST uses weighted averages rather than normal averages for the group and nationwide averages.