The Undeniable Ruth Rotating Header Image

Still Demanding the Maximum Value for my Tuition

Every time I think about how much I’m paying to go to law school, my head starts to hurt, my stomach gets queasy,and I’m not sure if I’m going to throw up or pass out.  Last semester, I paid over $9,800 in tuition and fees and I expected the full value for my money.  This fall, the cost just for tuition alone is $10,630 ($4,255 for graduate school tuition + $6,375 for law school tuition).  With the cost of law school tuition on the rise nationwide, every time the institutional powers that be raise my tuition, I in turn raise my expectations.  I had to do the math to see how much I’m paying for this semester’s experience.

This semester I am taking 16 credits of class – 5 regular classes and a 2-credit externship.  I am paying $664.375 per credit.  Here’s the break down for each of my classes.

Criminal Procedure, Copyright Law, and Cyberspace Law are 3 credits each.  They all meet twice a week for 85 minutes.  Each course is valued at $1993.125, $76.66 per class, or $0.90187 per minute.  The cost to attend one of these classes is more than the price to see Kathy Griffin live.

Trademark Law is a 3-credit class, but we only meet once a week for 175 minutes.  This class is valued at $1993.125 for the course, $142.37 per class, or $0.81352 per minute.  Going to this class once is more expensive than buying a lower level ticket on the 50-yard line at an Arizona Cardinals game.

Privacy is a 2-credit seminar class that meets once a week for 115 minutes.  Its value is $1328.75 for the course, $110.73 per class, or $0.9629 per minute.  Going to class is about what I pay for a pair of running shoes.  I have a friend who recently paid about this much to see Lady GaGa in concert and sit in the nosebleed section.

My externship is basically a class where I pay to work for a judge or agency.  To earn 2 credits, I have to work for 120 hours.  I’m paying $1328.75 for this experience or $11.06 per hour.  Working for them for an hour is more expensive than going to a movie.  This is my least expensive class from an hourly perspective, and it’s still a lot of ramen.

If I am paying this much to sit in a classroom, I expect the value of the experience to be equal to what I could be spending my money on instead of tuition.  Last semester, I wanted the academic equivalent of glitter, fanfare, and dancing girls.  This semester with the increase in tuition, I expect an even higher value.  I still want glitter, fanfare, and dancing girls, but this semester I want the academic equivalent of skydiving too.  I want to be so entertained and engaged by my professor’s stories and explanations that I forget that I’m in school, overworked, exhausted, and stressed.

Last semester I didn’t get the value of my tuition and I unsuccessfully demanded my money back.  As students, it’s frustrating that we don’t have much power over the classroom experience besides dropping a course when the professor or the class doesn’t meet our needs.  For the most part, I have been happy with my law school experience, but I will ask for my money back if I feel like I’m being ripped off.  When I demanded my money back from the law school, I was told that I had to seek compensation from the university.  I wonder how the president of the university would react if he received a demand letter.

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  1. Amanda says:

    I got positively jealous looking at those numbers, which is profoundly depressing. My tuition per semester is more than double that, not including fees ::sigh::

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      I hope you’re getting a $20,000 value for your money. This is why I refuse to take any class just to fill time or because it’s easy. I want a massive return on my investment. Hopefully we’re getting a stellar education for our money but on the flip side we’re also purchasing stress, insomnia, headaches, indigestion, and temporary poverty. This is why I go to all the free lunch seminars at school. I consider the pizza to be a freebie that comes with my investment.

  2. M-core says:


    Hate to make your head hurt more, or cause you to vomit, but your starting salary factors into your tuition’s value. The ABA and others measure the break-even return-on-investment starting salary at $65,000 per year. For students at public law schools, though, it’s undoubtedly lower. You can find out more at my blog.

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      My naive mind says people, regardless of their schooling or profession, should be paid according to the value of their work. I’m glad that firms consider the fact that they have to pay people enough to pay their bills, which for most law kids includes repaying student loans.

  3. amy pennock says:

    Hey Ruthie, it’s interesting to see you break it down like that. College is insanely expensive even in-state. It just keeps going up and up too virtually without any penalties. Back in 97 my tuition was something like $1200 a semester. It really puts it into perspective just how much tuition has inflated in such a short time with no checks and balances. Plus, the Crowe “Super college” idea. With so many students going to one school, will it lessen the quality of our education? I don’t want to pay $10,000 a year on being a number. I want my profs to know me. I want an authentic experience. I don’t want a University of Phoenix experience, I want a “real” college experience for that kind of money. There will come a time when people get wise and demand more for their money. It’s just a question of when and will the universities be able to meet their demands?

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      Thanks for your thoughts Amy! Now, more than ever, students have the challenge of creating an individualized experience and relationships with their professors. I know that the administration of my program has had discussions about how much they can charge before the cost will be a deterrent for students. Some would say that they’ve reach this limit.

      I’m ok with paying a high price for high quality products. However, I have met people who, only a few years ago, paid $12,000 a year in tuition for the education I’m receiving now. I think universities in the future will have to justify their high cost to their students. If my education is $9,000 better than what students used to get, I don’t mind paying that. If I’m not, I’m going to be severely annoyed, which isn’t how a school wants their potential future donors to feel.