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January 10, 2015


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Well, at least LST practices what it preaches by providing information that isn't incomplete or misleading in any way....

(That's sarcasm)

For LST when they read and respond to this thread: Kyle, you're not helping your cause of being seen as a mature and unbiased voice in favor of transparency via juvenile tactics like this or your earlier efforts to leverage financial gain by threatening to withhold your "seal of approval" from schools that didn't pay cash to become LST Certified or whatever you called it.


I think the editing was a crowd sourced efforts by users at the top-law-schools forum. Not sure if this will allow me to include a link, but the relevant thread is here:


I'd make a guess that Temple did not include interest in its average debt number, or undergraduate student debt. If you are going criticise law school transparency, you may want to also case a harsh eye on Temple's numbers - I mean that would be even handed.... But....


And having double checked the link, what did I find - that this post actually misstated the Temple number.

You day that Temple included the "average debt number," but Temple did not. The $89,798 number is described merely as the "the average amount borrowed for law school by members of the 2013 graduating class." Interestingly, Temple does not state whether this is the median number borrowed or the mean (average could mean either) and Temple makes no mention of interest at graduation, so this is the mean/median principal, not as you say the "average debt number." Most lawyers, accountants, credit reference agencies, banks, etc., would consider the term "debt number" as including accrued interest (and a lot would include all educational debt.)

What is of course remarkable is not just that Temple's number is "non-transparent" but in converting the "average number borrowed" to "average debt number" you in fact IMPROVED the description of that data beyond what Temple was willing to do. Why? What compulsion drove this?

Ben, given how many times you have been accused of being a law school apologist, you might try to be more careful. By the way, do you teach critical thinking skills?

Kyle McEntee


Here is where the effort to edit Wikipedia came from:

We don't find average debt to be that relevant of a number when it comes to deciding whether or where to attend law school, and this is besides the point that the average debt is actually average borrowed not average debt. This is why we provide a host of scenarios on each school profile page on our site. Here is Temple's cost page: As you can see, it includes 24 scenarios for in-state students and 24 scenarios for out-of-state students, with a range of discounts on tuition and a range of borrowing choices for cost of living.

We do have average debt on this page:

I'm open to arguments in favor of also including average debt. We have long thought about this, though, so to be honest it's an uphill battle.

I would also like to add that we are currently evaluating the school profile cost page to better help people understand what strikes me as difficult to understand. Any feedback on that is more than welcome.


My understanding is that LST was created as an attempt to make available information about the costs of law school attendance that the law schools themselves were not necessarily eager to share--less about providing "all relevant information," and more "information that is not readily available from other sources." Thanks in no small part to LST, that information is becoming more readily available from other sources (the ABA's 509 reports are especially helpful). I also wonder how helpful the average debt numbers would be. It seems to me that there are two distinct reasons why the average debt is significantly lower than the total cost of law school--one reason is that many students have personal or family money that can limit the need to borrow, and the other is the prevalence of scholarship money (i.e., tuition cross-subsidization). Prospective students can benefit from seeing the scholarship numbers--and the 509 reports show 25/50/75 percentile grant amounts. Jerry Organ had a fabulous presentation at AALS (slides are now up at the Legal Whiteboard) analyzing net cost by LSAT and geography--I highly recommend it. But to the extent that lower average debt reflects family wealth, I'm not sure that information would offer much value for prospective students. I think the scholarship/grant numbers broken out are probably more useful.

Brian Tamanaha

"The point of transparency is to give interested parties all relevant information. In the debt context, relevant information would include, though not be limited to, the average debt number."

I agree, although a more informative number would be average law school debt upon graduation, which includes interest accrued. Full transparency of relevant information would also include a detailed breakdown of starting salaries of graduates.


It wasn't LST who updated the wiki files. It was a crowdsourced project at the website "top-law-schools", populated by prospective law students. In other words, the students applying to law schools put the figures up that they thought relevant.

In any event, the "cost of attendance" is the most useful metric because it excludes irrelevant information. It is also clear that one should subtract one's own contributions from the total if one wants to figure out indebtedness and not cost.

A student applying to law school isn't helped much if other students' rich parents subsidized their education, are they? Put average debt figure up, by all means, but it isn't a particularly useful metric for prospective students.


What is the problem exactly? Is it really that terrible that kids without rich parents or scholarships know what the 3-year price tag for a Temple education is?

Honestly, average debt is a useless number. This isn't some science experiment where if you shoot one student into Temple, they walk out with $89k in debt on average. One's financial circumstances and entrance credentials are essentially determined ahead of time.



Can we count on you to push for a detailed breakdown of employment salaries and outcomes at your school, just as Michigan is doing?

terry malloy

Schools should feel free to provide detailed information that proves the LST number is not the reality for X% of the law schools students.

I'm not going to hold my breath.


"The Law School Transparency estimated debt-financed cost of attendance for three years is $_______"

Semantically that seems to be simply saying that if you debt-financed the cost of attendance listed in the sentence prior, the number would be $___. I don't see anything particularly misleading about that sentence, and the aggregate average debt would serve no purpose to a prospective student because the relative financial circumstances of others is not really relevant to their decision to enter law school.

dan rodriguez

I agree with Brian. Average law school debt, with interest, but also detailed breakdown of starting salaries (which would include traditional law jobs and other jobs, perhaps then giving the lie to the trope that all JD advantage jobs are crappy).

confused by your post

Law School Transparency, the entity most responsible for causing more info to be made available to the public, is attacked here for not being transparent enough to satisfy a law professor. Classic.

Ben Barros

I don't see my post as attacking LST. As I've said many times before, I like a lot of what they do.

I generally agree with Brian and Dan, though I disagree that starting salaries are that useful, and in some circumstances can be misleading. I'm not suggesting that starting salary data is irrelevant, or shouldn't be provided. Longer term salary data is much more useful but harder to find. The most recent After the JD report has good data showing that lawyer salaries go up over time across all types of students at all types of schools.

nairb, thanks for the info.


Ben, what I don't understand is what possible utility you think the average indebtedness would have for a prospective student.

Let's take a student who is planning on attending Law School A and Law School B:

1. Both law schools have a total cost of attendance of $200,000.
2. Both law schools have a total debt-financed cost of attendance of $250,000.
3. Now Law School A has an average indebtedness of $200,000. But Law School B has an average indebtedness of $100,000.

What does the information in #3 above give to the student? She knows her own financial situation, and how much of her education she will have to debt-finance. He own financial situation will be the sole determinant of her eventual indebtedness -- the average indebtedness provides nothing. Indeed, it would not be rational for her to incorporate it into any decision she made as to what school to attend.

terry malloy

If you've got rich parents, your debt number is zero, and you torpedo the numerator of the average debt calculation (actually, they may actually exclude zero debt. I can't remember).

The debt range is the following:

Low: rich parents - zero debt, nice apartment, job with dad's business associates, plenty of cocaine.

Mid: Some kind of scholarship, low debt, some family help.

High: The LST number.

Average debt doesn't help a student understand where they'll end up.

In fact, reliance on the average number obscures the reality for those who actually take out debt.

Nathan A

"Longer term salary data is much more useful but harder to find."

Long term data would be useful IF we have reason to expect that past trends can be projected into the future.


I think total cost of attendance and starting salaries are crucial figures.

Total COA: it is useful for one to be able to see what the total cost will be. They can then figure out their savings, parental contributions, whether or not they get any scholarships, discounts, or grants, and, voila! They know how much law school will cost. That is not a bad thing..

Starting salaries: prospective students need to know starting salaries so they will know their situation directly after graduation. How else are they going to know if they will be able to pay heating, light, their car insurance, their Obamacare deductible, and on top of that, interest and principal on student loans.

Long-term salaries would be awesome to have, and in some respects is more important than short-term salaries. However, there are a number of people who leave the profession within a few years of graduating law school, if they are fortunate enough to enter it soon after law school.

It would be interesting to know what proportion of law graduates go on to have 30-40+ year careers.


We already have strong evidence that salaries don't rise that much over time, at least for Widener grads. Widener knows who its grads are (it keeps track of them so it can solict donations). If widener wanted to, it could survey the students who graduated 10 and 20 years ago and ask about salaries. If it thought the salaries would be high it would certainly do so, to alleviate prospective students' concerns about the cost of law school. And, if they had done well, grateful widener students would respond to the survey.

But widener knows the truth. Its grads are not making the kind of salaries that justify its sky high tuition. And surveying them would just confirm that (assuming the students even filled out the survey, I suspect many are quite upset with Widener as their careers have not turned out as they expected).

Widener's refusal to survey its students about long term outcomes is strong evidence its students are not making enough to justify its tuition 10 and 20 years out.

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