There are many ways to rank law schools, but the way that the National Jurist’s preLaw Magazine does it is quite interesting. Rather than concentrating on the prestige factors that usually dominate law school ranking systems, this ranking focuses solely on factors that provide the “best value” for students. That said, this is a list that is typically dominated by public schools, with a smattering of private schools mixed in. This year, however, is different. For the first time ever, a private school has come out on top of the National Jurist ranking.

Before we get to the Top 25 ranking, let’s discuss the methodology used to suss out which law schools are providing the best value for students. The National Jurist’s ranking takes into account a law school’s tuition (weighted 25%), students’ cost of living expenses (10%), students’ average indebtedness upon graduation (15%), the percentage of graduates who got a job after graduation (35%), and bar passage rates (ultimate and two-year pass rates) (15%).

As noted previously, based on these inputs, the ranking tends to skew heavily towards public schools. In fact, just one private school cracked — and managed to lead — the Top 25, with only three others following behind later in the ranking. So without further ado, here are the National Jurist’s Top 25 Best Value Law Schools:

  1. Brigham Young University
  2. University of Georgia
  3. University of Alabama
  4. University of Florida
  5. University of Nebraska
  6. University of Tennessee
  7. University of Montana
  8. University of Iowa
  9. Georgia State University
  10. Florida State University
  11. University of North Carolina
  12. University of Kentucky
  13. University Arkansas, Fayetteville
  14. University of Utah
  15. University of Illinois
  16. Texas Tech University
  17. William & Mary Law School
  18. George Mason University
  19. Ohio State University
  20. University of Missouri
  21. Texas A&M Law
  22. Wayne State University
  23. University of Wyoming
  24. University of South Carolina
  25. University of Texas

D. Gordon Smith, BYU Law’s dean, attributes the school’s success in the 2021 Best Value ranking to being part of “a virtuous cycle.” Here’s what that means:

If a school charges affordable tuition and offers a quality education, it attracts better students. If it attracts better students, those students perform better on the bar and are more employable. The school’s reputation grows, and the school gains more donor and alumni support.

The cycle builds upon itself, lifting all metrics.

The lesson to be learned here is simple: if you want to keep your debt low, consider enrolling at a public law school. If you don’t mind up to a six-figure debt load, enroll in the best law school you can get into (let’s say the top 50), because those are the schools where you’ll be able to get jobs that will allow you to service your loans.

Congratulations to the law schools that offer their students the “best value.”

Best Value Law Schools [preLaw Magazine / National Jurist]

Staci ZaretskyStaci Zaretsky is a senior editor at Above the Law, where she’s worked since 2011. She’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to email her with any tips, questions, comments, or critiques. You can follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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