Law schools’ tuition increases will range as high as 19 percent this fall, with private schools averaging a 4 percent bump and public schools increasing by an average 6 percent. The National Law Journal spoke with deans about the factors driving their schools’ tuition levels.

William S. Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada
Professors at Boyd don’t dare to dream of pay raises this year. In fact, they will be lucky to have their pay restored after state legislators knocked about 5 percent off their compensation through furloughs and pay cuts in recent years, said dean Nancy Rapoport. The school has been bringing in fewer adjuncts and visiting professors. And for the first time, Boyd has frozen tuition. “We’ve taken funding cuts that forced our tuition up faster than we wanted in the past, so we thought we’d keep it stable if we could,” said former dean John Valery White, who handled tuition matters before becoming a university provost this summer.

Syracuse University College of Law
Syracuse kept the competition very much in mind when setting tuition rates this year, according to dean Hannah Arterian. The school has phased out its guarantee that students would pay the same tuition levels for all three years — in part because the higher upfront price made the school appear like a costly outlier when compared with competitors that boost tuition year over year. “It just didn’t work, and I don’t think students appreciated what it meant,” she said. “As we go to a different system, we’re just going to have to eat it for a while” by foregoing significant tuition increases. Syracuse has imposed small increases over the past two years to help bring its listed price back in line with comparable private schools, and students this year will pay just $43 more — a fee increase supported by the Student Bar Association.

The University of Florida Levin College of Law
Dean Robert Jerry knows that a 14 percent tuition increase sounds bad, but he also believes his school gives good value at $21,421 a year. “UF has historically had very low tuition, so when you add to that small base, the percentage increase will be higher,” Jerry said. Still, Florida has seen its state appropriation shrink by 30 percent — or $1 million — during the past five years, and has looked to tuition to fill $400,000 of that amount. Administrators are still looking for the other $600,000. “There’s no question that 15 percent increases year after year are not sustainable,” Jerry said.

Drexel University Earle Mack School of Law
Being a new law school without full accreditation from the American Bar Association limits how much you can charge students. “You don’t have that much market pressure as a new school,” said dean Roger Dennis. “You have to use a lower price to attract the students you want.” That rang particularly true for Drexel, the new kid in a city with four well-established law schools. Drexel was fully accredited by the ABA this year and is raising tuition by 6 percent, to $40,270, in part to bring costs more in line with the other Philadelphia schools. It’s a larger than usual increase, and one that Dennis doesn’t think the school will repeat next year. “We have to be mindful of total cost,” he said. — Karen Sloan