Georgia State University (left) and University of Georgia law schools.Georgia State University is No. 1 and the University of Georgia is No. 2 in a national ranking of the best-value law schools.
The ranking by The National Jurist assesses law school value based on tuition cost, student debt load and graduates’ success in passing the bar and landing legal jobs.
Of Georgia’s five law schools, GSU Law and UGA Law are both public, with significantly lower tuition than Emory University School of Law, Mercer University’s Walter F. George School of Law, and Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School.
Unsurprisingly, the other law schools ranked in the Top 10 for value nationwide are also public, with the Universities of Florida, Wisconsin and Nebraska in the next three spots, respectively.
The exercise is designed “to find law schools in which graduates have excellent chances of passing the bar and getting a job without taking on a ton of debt for education,” The National Jurist said.
GSU’s College of Law “rocked the house across the board,” according to the publication, a free quarterly that is distributed at law schools nationally and that it estimates reaches about 100,000 law students.
Average student debt at GSU Law, with in-state tuition of $16,858, is below $64,384. The school’s 2015 bar pass rate was 88 percent for first-time takers of the Georgia exam, well above the state average of 73 percent, and more than 82 percent of its graduates got jobs within 10 months of graduation.
“Our students are not forced to choose between world-class programming and affordable tuition,” said GSU Law’s interim dean, Wendy Hensel, in a statement. “Instead, they graduate as highly trained and competitive legal professionals who are able to choose personally satisfying careers uninfluenced by heavy debt.”
At UGA Law, the employment rate for new graduates is 87.4 percent—five percentage points higher than at GSU Law—and the state bar pass rate, at 90 percent, is two points higher than for GSU Law grads. But UGA Law is more expensive. In-state tuition is $19,488 and students carry an average debt load of $82,199, according to The National Jurist.
The National Jurist rated 200 schools on value but published data only for the top 60. Emory, Mercer and Atlanta’s John Marshall did not make the cut.
It did publish data for the school it ranked the lowest of the 200, Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego. Thomas Jefferson’s students’ average debt load is more than $180,000, fewer than half its graduates passed the bar in 2015, and fewer than 38 percent of them landed jobs after graduation.
National Jurist bases its rankings on: employment rate, using a formula that gives more weight to full-time jobs requiring bar passage (35 percent); tuition (25 percent); percentage of graduates who pass the bar exam (15 percent); average indebtedness upon graduation (15 percent); and cost of living (10 percent). All data came from the American Bar Association’s required disclosure form for schools that it accredits, except for average indebtedness, which came from U.S. News & World Report.