Why would anyone go to the cheapest law schools? The answer is easy: the high cost of a legal education. Close to 90% of all law school students take out loans to pay for law school, which is not uncommon, but more troubling is how much students are borrowing and the difficulties of paying it all back. A survey of young lawyers by the American Bar Association found that 40% had no luck in reducing their debt loads after graduation; 80% of them also said their debt load influenced their career choices, which is why the cheapest law schools can be more attractive options than prestigious T14 law schools. This article will list the cheapest law schools in the US and Canada, which range from the easiest law schools to get into to online law schools, and give you other ways that you can reduce your costs if you’re thinking should I go to law school? or not. 

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Article Contents
12 min read

Cheapest Law Schools in the US Cheapest Law Schools in Canada Cheapest Law Schools: Why is Law School so Expensive? Cheapest Law Schools: What Kind of Lawyer do You Want to Be? Cheapest Law Schools: Private vs. Public Cheapest Law Schools: In-State vs. Out-of-State Cheapest Law Schools: US vs. Canada FAQs

Cheapest Law Schools in the US

The list below details how much law school is at every law school in the US, based on tuition rates:

  1. University of the District of Columbia - $12,838 (tuition)
  2. University of North Dakota - $13,023 (tuition)/$8,974 (living expenses) 
  3. Brigham Young University - $13,060 (tuition)/$12,720 (living expenses)
  4. 4. University of Montana - $13,177 (tuition)/$12,480 (living expenses)
  5. 5. Florida A&M University - $14,132 (tuition)/ $13,240 (living expenses)
  6. CUNY-Queens College - $15,563 (tuition)/$14,823 (living expenses)
  7. University of Arkansas-Little Rock - $16,031 (tuition)/$8,260 (living expenses)
  8. University of Nebraska-Lincoln - $16,078 (tuition)/$12,330 (living expenses)
  9. University of Arkansas-Fayetteville - $16,188 (tuition)/$11,020 (living expenses)
  10. Southern University - $16,490 (tuition)/$14,000 (living expenses)
  11. University of Mississippi - $16,550 (tuition)/$12,056 (living expenses)
  12. University of Wyoming - $16,775 (tuition)/$12,703 (living expenses)
  13. University of South Dakota - $16,944 (tuition)/$8,538 (living expenses)
  14. Georgia State University - $17,050 (tuition)/$9,500 (living expenses)
  15. University of New Mexico - $17,349 (tuition)/$9,864 (living expenses)
  16. North Carolina Central University - $18,738 (tuition)/$12,308 (living expenses)
  17. University of Memphis - $19,197 (tuition)/$10,425 (living expenses)
  18. University of Missouri-Kansas City - $19,440 (tuition)/$10,314 (living expenses)
  19. University of Tennessee-Knoxville - $19,674 (tuition)/$13,146 (living expenses)
  20. University of Georgia - $19,708 (tuition)/$11,876 (living expenses)
  21. Northern Kentucky University - $20,332 (tuition)/$9,912 (living expenses)
  22. Texas Southern University - $20,418 (tuition)/$20,819 (living expenses) 
  23. Florida State University - $20,693 (tuition)/ $10,000 (living expenses) 
  24. University of Oklahoma - $20,903 (tuition)/$11,564 (living expenses) 
  25. University of Idaho - $20,968 (tuition)/$10,654 (living expenses) 
  26. University of Florida (Levin) - $21,803 (tuition)/$12,860 (living expenses) 
  27. Florida International University - $21,806 (tuition)/$19,106 (living expenses) 
  28. University of Missouri-Columbia - $21,837 (tuition)/$9,156 (living expenses) 
  29. University of Toledo - $21,895 (tuition)/$11,904 (living expenses) 
  30. University of Louisville Brandeis - $21,988 (tuition)/$9,414 (living expenses) 
  31. Northern Illinois University - $22,179 (tuition)/$13,766 (living expenses) 
  32. Washburn University - $22,429 (tuition)/     $10,993 (living expenses) 
  33. University of Kansas - $22,562 (tuition)/$10,054 (living expenses) 
  34. Southern Illinois University - $22,564 (tuition)/$14,272 (living expenses) 
  35. University of Hawaii - $23,164 (tuition)/$13,689 (living expenses) 
  36. University of Wisconsin-Madison - $23,517 (tuition)/$12,174 (living expenses) 
  37. University of Maine - $23,640 (tuition)/$9,850 (living expenses) 
  38. Louisiana State University-Baton Rouge - $23,660 (tuition)/$15,074 (living expenses) 
  39. University of Alabama - $23,920 (tuition)/$12,702 (living expenses)
  40. University of Cincinnati - $24,010 (tuition)/$12,102 (living expenses)
  41. University of Kentucky - $24,046 (tuition)/$12,814 (living expenses) 
  42. West Virginia University - $24,084 (tuition)/$11,970 (living expenses) 
  43. University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill - $24,172 (tuition)/$17,800 (living expenses) 
  44. University of Akron - $24,214 (tuition)/$11,524 (living expenses) 
  45. University of Tulsa - $25,254 (tuition)/$9,930 (living expenses) 
  46. George Mason University Scalia School of Law - $25,354 (tuition)/$18,730 (living expenses) 
  47. University of Arizona Rogers School of Law - $25,826 (tuition)/$12,250 (living expenses) 

Cheapest Law Schools in Canada

  1. University of Victoria Faculty of Law – $12,024 (tuition) 
  2. University of British Columbia Peter A. Allard School of Law - $13,680 (tuition) 
  3. University of Manitoba Faculty of Law - $15,164 (tuition) 
  4. University of Windsor Faculty of Law - $20,855 (tuition) 
  5. Université du Québec à Montréal Faculté de science politique et de droit - $1,819 (tuition) 
  6. University of Ottawa Faculty of Law - $17,568 (tuition) 
  7. Lakehead University Bora Laskin Faculty of Law - $19,344 (tuition) 
  8. Université de Sherbrooke Faculté de droit - $1,880 (tuition) 
  9. Université de Montréal Faculté de Droit - $2,016 (tuition) 
  10. Université de Moncton Faculté de Droit - $8,639 (tuition) 

Even though these are some of the cheapest law schools, one thing you should remember is that many of the law schools in the US charge different rates for in-state and out-of-state students, or international students, so you should not assume that these figures represent tuition for everyone, regardless of residency.

Cheapest Law Schools: Why is Law School so Expensive?

There is no easy answer to why law school is so expensive. Some say the high cost of law school is justified by the six-figure salaries that some graduates earn after law school. But that usually only refers to students who go to Ivy Leage colleges or the most prestigious universities in Canada. Take Columbia Law School, for example. Columbia is one of the most expensive law schools in the US with an annual tuition rate of $110,450. But it’s student also have one of the highest employment rates after graduation.

Columbia has a near-perfect record for hiring; 96% of its JD graduates were employed full-time after graduation with 65% of those same graduates landing jobs with the more lucrative law firms. You can see this pattern across all the T14 law schools; the University of Chicago has a 93% hiring rate; Duke University School of Law and Cornell Law School have a 94% and 92% hiring rate, respectively.

However, some of the top non-Ivy League schools and the best public universities in the USA are also successful at getting their JD graduates jobs, so the phenomenon is not limited only to the best, and most expensive law schools in the US. However, despite being public universities, the tuition at some of these law schools rivals those of private and Ivy League law schools, so they are not among the cheapest law schools.

Cheapest Law Schools: What Kind of Lawyer do You Want to Be?

But, if you look at the some of the cheapest law schools on this list, they do not have the same success in getting their graduates into those prestigious law firms where you can earn up to $190,000 to $215,000 as a starting salary. But that is not a bad thing either. For example, the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law, which is a public, historically-Black college, and is one of the only six historically-Black law schools in the US, charges only $6,219 per semester for residents of DC and $12,437 per semester for out-of-state students.

Overall, the school has an 84% hiring rate for its law school graduates. But the majority of its graduates (13 students) enter public or government service. Only 3 of the school’s graduates were able to find full-time employment in a law firm with more than 500 people, which usually tend to pay the highest junior associate salaries. What this demonstrates is that the cheapest law schools are not only easier to afford but offer different career opportunities than those who want to go to high-priced, competitive law schools.

So, one of the ways that you can reduce law school costs is by figuring out early what kind of lawyer you want to be, and what kind of law you want to practice. If you’ve made up your mind about being a high-priced lawyer working at a multinational law firm, then, it’s going to cost a lot, even though you’ll have a better chance of paying off your loans after you graduate. But if you want to work in public-service or represent the underrepresented, the cheapest law schools can help you meet those goals without costing a fortune.

The cheapest law schools produce a kind of domino effect. Their lower tuition means you don’t have to borrow as much as you would to go to Harvard Law School or Yale Law School. With a lower debt load, you won’t have as much pressure to find a lucrative job after graduation, so you can choose the field you want to enter, which could involve working with underrepresented groups, becoming a government attorney, or you could still go into a high-paying job if you want and are able to find one.

Cheapest Law Schools: Private vs. Public

As we touched on above, public universities do not always have the cheapest law schools; but there are exceptions. And while private universities and their law schools routinely get labeled as the most expensive law schools, there are also exceptions to that rule. Whether public universities have the cheapest law schools depends on a lot of other factors, such as where they are located, the size of their student population and how strict their residency requirements are.

For example, UC Berkeley Law School and UCLA School of Law are both part of the University of California system (which is publicly-funded) but their reputation, location, place on law school rankings and breadth of programs means that they receive hundreds of thousands of law school applications every year from non-California and international students. The number of applicants means that costs and fees are much higher than at other public universities. While California residents and out-of-state residents pay different fees, the difference is not so great to say that California residents have an advantage.

Tuition-alone at UCLA School of Law for California residents is $56,455; for non-California residents, it’s $68,700. But both class of students still have to pay the close-to-$30,000 in living costs associated with studying at the UCLA School of Law, which is so high because the school is located in Los Angeles. So, regardless of whether you are a California native or not, going to law school at UCLA costs a lot. But let’s look at the other end of the extreme.

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Cheapest Law Schools: Are Public Law Schools Cheaper or More Expensive?

The other two cheapest law schools in the US are the University of North Dakota School of Law, and the University of Montana Alexander Blewett III School of Law (the only law school in the state). These two public law schools offer lower tuition rates than other public universities in large population centers such as UC Berkeley School of Law, UCLA or the University of Florida, to name a few, but in these schools, there is a sizable difference between what you would pay as a resident compared to what non-residents pay.

As a resident you’d pay only $502 per credit; a full-semester consists of 12-credits; so, two semesters (fall and winter) at $502 per credit comes out to $12,200 per year. But as a non-resident, you’d pay $1,016 per credit, which all together comes out to $24,384 per year, which is almost double in-state tuition. But the University of North Dakota is not alone in charging more for out-of-state applicants, as it is a common practice across all levels of higher education, from undergraduate to medical schools.

Compared to Berkeley and UCLA, the University of North Dakota, and the University of Montana are smaller in size, in terms of student population, and serve as important hubs for residents of their underserved populations. A smaller student population means that these schools do not have as high operating costs as larger schools, so they are not anxious to charge higher tuition. Public, state schools like the University of North Dakota and University of Montana are usually populated by residents, as they do not attract as many applicants as the more popular law schools.

Another complication is that while these smaller law schools may have cheaper tuition for in-state residents, they might not always have the resources to offer law school scholarships, which, ironically enough, the big law schools such as UCLA or Columbia can afford. Meaning that sometimes it may be more affordable to go to an elite law school, especially if you are an exceptional student and have high LSAT scores, GRE scores, or a high GPA.

Cheapest Law Schools: Are Private Law Schools Cheaper or More Expensive?

While elite law schools have a reputation for being the most expensive that is not always the case. For example, at least two of the best law schools in the US, Yale Law School and Stanford Law School recently announced that they were awarding full-tuition scholarships to all incoming students who demonstrate financial need; financial need defined as coming from a family of four that makes less than $41,625. The scholarships are not even merit-based, but needs-based.

Of course, you still have to meet the law school requirements for each school to be admitted, but after that, if you meet the financial criteria, you won’t have to pay tuition. Stanford and Yale are not the only Ivy Leage professional schools who offer “free-ride” scholarships. Harvard Medical School and the NYU Grossman School of Medicine both offer full-tuition scholarships (including fees and living expenses) to any of their students who also demonstrate financial need.

So here we see how the most expensive schools can turn out to be the least expensive, while those public, state schools can be more expensive, especially for out-of-state students, as they also do not have the resources to offer “free-ride” scholarships to its students. But the main takeaway is that not all public universities have the cheapest law schools.

You have to look closely at law school requirements and other factors, such as location, student population, and residency requirements to see if the state law school in your state is the most economical option, or whether there’s little difference between tuition for in-state and out-of-state applicants.

This distinction is important, as not everyone chooses their law school based on the cost, even though it is a crucial consideration. If you’re a student from Montana, and you want to go to UCLA specifically for what it offers (diversity, school culture, more job and extracurricular opportunities) that are not available in Montana, then the cost of going to UCLA is something you are willing to pay.

But again, a lot depends on what you want to do as a lawyer. One revealing statistic from the latest graduating class at the University of North Dakota is that close to 30% of its class went to work for local law firms with fewer than 10 lawyers per firm. Local students stay local. They wanted to stay in their community, which is what universities want; keeping graduates in state is why they have such low tuition rates for residents. But if you have a different career path in mind that requires you to go to school out-of-state or to a law school that can offer you more experiences, then you can follow that path as well.

Cheapest Law Schools: In-State vs. Out-of-State

Another thing about public, state law schools is that they are among the cheapest law schools for residents of their respective states only. State schools receive public money. This means that they have legal obligations not only to admit students from that state, but to make their education affordable for those same students. Public universities will still accept and admit you if you’re from out-of-state (the University of North Dakota also accepts Canadian students as domestic students, and international students), but you won’t be able to pay in-state tuition fees, which are usually the cheapest.

However, depending on the university, you may be able to qualify for in-state tuition if you meet certain conditions, such as having family ties to the state, or having lived in the state for at least a year (but each school and state has their own requirements). But if you are not able to prove residency then you’re stuck paying much more or as much as you would pay at a larger, more well-known law school.

The price differences between in-state and out-of-state tuition are significant, especially at law schools that primarily admit in-state students. Similar to the schools that we were talking about above, they have limited state resources and cannot always benefit from the largesse of deep-pocketed donors similar to larger, more populous law schools.

Cheapest Law Schools: US vs. Canada

If you’re a US student thinking about getting into one of the best law schools in Canada because you think they’re cheaper, think again. In Canada, you will be viewed as an international student and the same principle applies as it does with in-state and out-of-state applicants – international students pay much more than in-province or out-of-province Canadian students. Take McGill University. Law schools in Quebec usually have the lowest tuition fees in Canada, although they are exclusive to in-province students.

A Quebec resident only pays around $5,500 in tuition and fees (not including living expenses, which can estimate to be another $1,000) for each year at McGill’s Faculty of Law. But international students pay an astronomical $62,968 per year to complete the same program. Even worse is that McGill only offers a joint BCL/JD, so you have to enter as an undergraduate, spend four years completing your degree, and then you’ll enter the JD program, which is another three years. Taken all together, you’re going to spend $440,776, which is even more expensive than three years at Columbia Law!

The situation is not so dire in other provinces. At York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, the three-year JD-only program is $37,643 for international students, which is much higher than the Canadian tuition rate of $24,802. That figure for international students at York holds for most of the other law schools in Canada, such as the Peter A. Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia where Canadian students pay only $13,680 (tuition-only), while international students have to pay closer to $40,000 per year. So, while law school is cheaper in Canada compared to some JD programs in the US, it is cheaper mostly for Canadian students (or residents of Quebec, who pay the least) and not for international students.


1. What are the cheapest law schools in the US?

The cheapest law schools in the US are the University of the District of Columbia law school and the University of North Dakota law school, which are cheapest only for in-state residents. 

2. What are the cheapest law schools in Canada?

The cheapest law schools in Canada are in Quebec, but those low fees are usually only for Quebec residents. Out-of-province and international students pay more. But the cheapest law schools in Canada outside of Quebec are the University of Victoria and the University of British Columbia Law School. 

3. Do the cheapest law schools offer a quality legal education?

Yes, the cheapest law schools offer high-quality legal education. The David A. Clarke School of Law is a well-regarded law school for Black students, and has an 84% employment rate for its graduates with over 78% first-time passage rate for the bar exam, so its graduates do as well, or even better than graduates from other law schools. 

4. Is there a difference in cost between going to a private or public law school?

Yes, there are different costs associated with going to a public and private law school, but there are many factors to consider. Large, highly-ranked public schools can still cost a lot to attend, sometimes even more than smaller, public law schools. But the reverse is true sometimes. Small, public law schools can cost more for out-of-state residents, while also being expensive for in-state students, such as the University of California law schools. 

5. Should I go to a law school outside of my state/province?

This is a personal question and there are many things to consider. If you apply to public, state law school as a resident, you might pay less in tuition, but you might be sacrificing the opportunities (academic and professional) that might come with going to a large, out-of-state school. But if you choose to apply to a public, out-of-state law school (private law schools do not often charge separate tuition for in-state or out-of-state applicants) you will be taking on significant debt to pay for school, but going to large, reputable school will help you find employment faster, which means you might be able to pay off your student loans faster than if you went to a small, public law school who may have a harder time finding you a job after graduation. 

6. How can I pay less for law school?

If you want to save on going to law school, the first thing you should establish is what you want to do with your law degree. Of course, you may not know yet, but if you have clear career goals, then you should choose the school that is best prepared to help you achieve those goals. If you want to stay in your community to practice law, then you can go to a local state law school. If you want to be an international or corporate lawyer, maybe going to a larger, more distinguished law school is best for you. The other thing you can do is to calculate your return-on-investment (ROI) to see which school is worth paying for, in terms of the financial compensation you will receive as a graduate compared to how much you will have to invest to get that degree. If you are willing to invest that money to see the eventual benefit, then that is the law school you should go to. After calculating your ROI, you should then review schools that offer the most scholarships, and what you have to do to get them, such as scoring high on the LSAT or GRE, or having a high GPA, which are other important considerations to think about if you want to pay less for law school. 

7. Should I go to the cheapest law school?

There are a lot of things to consider about which law school you should go to, and cost is one of them. However, cost should not be the only consideration. Sometimes, what you think is the cheapest law school (judging by the tuition fees and cost-of-attendance info on their website) is more expensive for the reasons we talked about (lack of scholarships, poor employment rate for graduates), while the most “expensive” law schools can give you more opportunities to offset tuition (scholarships, part-time or four-year JD programs, and full-tuition scholarships). 

8. Why is law school so expensive?

There are many reasons from the expected salaries that graduates receive after getting their degree to inflation and rising costs overall. Law schools also calculate their return-on-investment and they often raise their fees, ironically enough, to be able to give more financial aid to students who demonstrate financial need. 

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

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