Posted by: bridget | 16 January 2008

How many caramel macchiatos can you buy for three year’s tuition?

In its November 2007 issue, the National Jurist asks what we can do to stem the debt crisis among recent law school graduates. Private schools now have an average debt rate of about $83,000 (for those students who graduated in 2006*). As the debt of law school graduates increases, NJ states, “The issue is compounded by excess borrowing, lifestyle choices and high consumer debt.” NJ goes on to mention law schools that are alleviating the problem by teaching their students about basic finance. This is where reality takes a back seat to hand-wringing about those spoiled Gen-Y kids.

NJ gives lip service to the rising cost of tuition:

“Higher education has also become more expensive. That public law school that cost $2,006 in 1985 now has a tab of $13,145, the American Bar Association said. A non-resident who paid $4,724 in 1985 now owes $22,987. Private law students have gone from bills of about $7,526 to a whopping $28,900, the ABA found.”

A whopping $28,900 for private law school tuition? Where is this school, and can this blogger get a refund? Actually, she’s nerd enough to do out some of the math. Of the top 25 law schools, excluding Emory, whose website is experiencing problems today, the average tuition for private schools is $39,709; the average tuition for public schools (excluding UT, whose tuition structure is based on credits and not on semesters) is $27,895 for in-state students and $36,000 for out-of-state students. (Data are here.)

Folks, that is just tuition. That doesn’t include fees (schools may differ), books, living expenses, transportation, and loan fees. The total price tag, per year, at top-25 private schools averages $60,000; in-state public, $43,000, and out-of-state public, $51,000. Multiply by three. Add interest. Present six-figure bill at graduation, to be paid off in ten years. Private-school tuition alone, with 8.5% interest (Graduate PLUS loan rate), paid off over 10 years, will cost a student $1,475 per month. Add in loans for room, board, books, and fees, assume no consumer debt (credit card, car) and a new graduate will pay $2,200/month in student loans.

That has nothing to do with poor money management, living high (the average living loan is $13,850/year**, which is only slightly above the federal poverty level), or any choice save the one to go to law school and take out six-figure loans for tuition alone. The idea that $1,400/month of loan debt from tuition can be attributed to “lavish lifestyles” is patronising. To answer the rhetorical question posed in the title: 37,800 caramel macchiatos (private), 23,900 peppermint mochas (in-state public), and 34,400 grande toasted marshmallows (out-of-state public)***. The Starbuck’s bill isn’t really the problem.
*Those students started in 2003 and have approximately $15,000 less debt than those who started in 2008.

**Note: living loans are calculated for nine months, despite the fact that students do not hibernate during the summer. Many end up paying double rent. Even the nine-month calculation is suspect, as it is based on mid-August through mid-May, without the realisation that many students will need to rent out apartments for ten months on that schedule. Note that schools do not calculate living expenses similarly; some, like W&L, include health insurance, while others have that as a separate line item.
***Assumes $3.15 for tall caramel macchiato, $3.50 for a tall peppermint mocha, and $3.90 for a grande toasted marshmallow. YMMV.
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Responses

  1. The Pachyderm is right. I’m paying half my monthly income in student loans. That’s after the 30% the government takes off the top so that lazy baby factories and illegal immigrants can get free health care and welfare.

  2. Illegal immigrants don’t get health care or welfare. If your education didn’t furnish the skills to read a statute well enough to know that, ask for a refund.

    To comment substantively:

    The most surprising thing about law school tuition is that as high as it is, it still isn’t at the market-clearing price. By this, I mean that a lot of law schools could *raise* their tuitions substantially and still find more takers than they could admit. If you allowed a Dutch auction for the seats at a halfway decent law school, the numbers would be unbelievable. It’s striking, really.

  3. As for the illegals part: I blogged this before, so I have no desire to repeat myself (I try to only torture people with my thoughts one at a time :) ). Here it is:
    https://helvidiuspachyderm.wordpress.com/2007/05/24/immigration-musings-from-a-border-town-math-nerd/

    Although immigrants do not receive SCHIP, Medicare, and Medicaid, they do receive free care under the EMTALA (Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act), which holds that hospitals must admit and stabilise those in active labour or with life-threatening conditions, regardless of ability to pay or citizenship, from hospitals that participate in the Medicare programme. While emergency care does not compare to the full panoply of Medicare services, it’s not nothin’, and it’s not free.

    The reading of the Fourteenth Amendment that is accepted by the government (although debated at a San Diego Fed Soc event last year) mandates that those born in this country (the “and subject to the jx thereof” part is ignored) are citizens and therefore entitled to benefits. Children of illegals are therefore entitled to SCHIP and Medicaid.

    Some states are debating whether to offer in-state tuition benefits the children of illegals at public universities. (This has raised the ire of those who live out-of-state but would like the in-state rates… apropos of the subject of this post.)

    (Shrug.) We can have a death match if y’all would like. (QOS – remind me to tell you about the Dead Baby Cage Match of 2008 that I had with E.W..)

  4. By this, I mean that a lot of law schools could *raise* their tuitions substantially and still find more takers than they could admit. If you allowed a Dutch auction for the seats at a halfway decent law school, the numbers would be unbelievable.

    You are completely correct, although I wonder when schools would notice a drop-off in quality. Well, heck, put up 24% of the seats for Dutch auction so it doesn’t affect the 25-75% ranks for USNews. :)

  5. “Illegal immigrants don’t get health care or welfare.”

    Whoops…

    “Illegal Immigrant Births Top List For Emergency Medicaid Health Care Spending – Immigration – 1 Percent Of Medicaid Budget”

    http://www.bestsyndication.com/?q=031307_illegal_immigrant_health_care_costs_taxpayer.htm

    :-) And given the election of Hillary or Obama in 2008 we can count on illegal immigrants gainer greater access to all kinds of taxpayer funded goodies.

  6. I’m going to start playing Switzerland.

    It really depends on what you mean by welfare. Dictionary.com, the OED of the internet, has these as the top four definitions for welfare:

    1. the good fortune, health, happiness, prosperity, etc., of a person, group, or organization; well-being: to look after a child’s welfare; the physical or moral welfare of society.
    2. welfare work [the efforts or programs of an agency, community, business organization, etc., to improve living conditions, increase job opportunities, secure hospitalization, and the like, for needy persons within its jurisdiction.]
    3. financial or other assistance to an individual or family from a city, state, or national government: Thousands of jobless people in this city would starve if it weren’t for welfare.
    4. (initial capital letter) Informal. a governmental agency that provides funds and aid to people in need, esp. those unable to work.

    It appears as if definitions #2 and #3 fit within the meaning uesd by QOS, and it appears as if Ian meant #4.

    /Switzerland impersonation

  7. Ian, you should get a refund on your attempt at a sarcastic smackdown, because it sucked.

    Your faith in the sanctity of the law is touching. But shockingly, in that place called the “real world,” people find ways around rules. Theo and TT mentioned several prominent ways in which illegal immigrants jostle their way to the government teat. I’d like to add that not only do illegals get free treatment in ERs for truly emergent conditions, they daily use the ERs as general medicine clinics. All for free. The cost is tremendous (to taxpaying citizens, that is). In fact, it’s making hospitals in high-illegal-immigrant areas go under. And for a free public education and regular old welfare, all they need is one “anchor baby”.
    I’m from a town where a shocking percentage of the population spend their entire lives finagling various forms of welfare to which they are not entitled under governing statutes/regulations. It’s not hard to scam the system, especially when ivory tower intellectuals don’t have a frigging clue about reality.

  8. It’s not hard to scam the system, especially when ivory tower intellectuals don’t have a frigging clue about reality.

    Maybe you should have added, “and when it’s conducted on a national level that makes oversight virtually impossible and does not allow states to tailor their coverage to avoid the problems peculiar to its region.”

  9. L&L:

    Your distinction between “taxpaying citizens” and immigrants is strange. Most immigrants, legal or not, pay the same hefty payroll taxes as everyone else. They pay into, e.g., Social Security, even though they’ve got little chance of being paid out. Moreover, immigrants, legal or not, pay the same sales taxes, gas taxes, and many other taxes that everyone else does. They’re taxpayers, just like you.

    Invoking “free public education” is also startlingly unconvincing. Children born in the United States are citizens, as surely as I am (and on the exact same basis). that they receive an education for free like any other citizen is hardly a surprise, nor does it have anything to do with the immigration debate. Children born in the United States aren’t immigrants, legal or otherwise, even when folks parrot an insulting name for them.

    You keep referring to “regular old welfare.” I can’t quite tell what you mean by this. I thought you meant what used to be known as AFDC, now known as TANF (Temporary Aid for Needy Families). Except you can’t possibly, because any fool knows that even most legal immigrants are ineligible for benefits under the ’96 welfare reform laws. So, what exactly do you mean?

    Now, maybe you intend to highlight nothing more than the surely jaw-dropping evil of providing emergency care to those who need it without checking for a green card first. I have a really, really hard time losing sleep about that. I’m also not sure what the alternative is; I admit that I forgot to bring my notarized birth certificate with me the last time I went to the emergency room. Care to suggest a way for doctors to sort out the illegal immigrants? (“He seems brown, nurse. I’m just not sure.”)

    TT’s point does nothing more than reiterate the fact that yes, American children who are in the process of being born can do so at a hospital and have it paid for by Medicaid, regardless of the status of their parents. Helping babies be born safely is, in my view, a commendable, pro-life position. Someone will have to walk me through why it’s not a good idea.

    Finally, I took a gander at your site. It’s pretty good writing. A pointer, though: illegal immigrants aren’t, simply by virtue of being illegal immigrants, criminals. Being “out of status” is a civil offense in the United States.

  10. I need to get more chocolate moose munch if y’all are going to keep at it. Lewd, it’s your turn on this one. :)

    (P.S. Have you gotten your phone back?)

  11. Well, I’m glad that the lawyer, law school grad, and two law students all agree that the problem is the cost of law school. :)

    That said… if you are to take advantage of a benefit (not a right), then you ought to be prepared to deal with whatever the giver of that benefit requires. While I hate the idea of a national ID card, how about forking over your social security number and driver’s license? After all, that’s how the bill gets sent to you.

    I’ve been to the ER at least a half-dozen times, and I was always coherent enough to give that information. In fact, before I got loaded into an ambulance on a backboard, I had to give the cop my name, address, and all that stuff. (I think my friends gave it to him to spare me the trouble.)

    A pointer, though: illegal immigrants aren’t, simply by virtue of being illegal immigrants, criminals. Being “out of status” is a civil offense in the United States.

    Well, if they are merely existing here, but that’s not the point. If they are working, they are doing so illegally. If they are driving a car with a U.S. license, they are doing so criminally. If they have false identification, they are committing a criminal offence.

    It is a criminal offence in Mexico to drive without Mexican insurance. There are all these places along the border that people go to get it. Yet we are not accorded the same deference.

  12. Your distinction between “taxpaying citizens” and immigrants is strange. Most immigrants, legal or not, pay the same hefty payroll taxes as everyone else. They pay into, e.g., Social Security, even though they’ve got little chance of being paid out. Moreover, immigrants, legal or not, pay the same sales taxes, gas taxes, and many other taxes that everyone else does. They’re taxpayers, just like you.

    I was going to do a post on this. I guess I’ll do it sooner rather than later. Main point: even if illegal aliens are somehow paying taxes on their income (doubtful), they are not paying enough to cover their share of the benefits. (Neither am I, incidentally, but I don’t have the option of choosing between several countries.)

    Second, most of the money that illegals make gets sent back home to Mexico. It must undermine the economic arguments against illegals if the money were staying here and circulating throughout the economy, but such is not the case.

    Final thought: The use of illegal labour (arguably cheaper than other labour) shifts costs. California is disproportionately affected by the influx of illegals, so the state bears a disproportionate part of the cost. (The cost is huge, by the way.) The benefit, however, is either consolidated in the hands of the stockholders of agricultural companies, or is spread out amongst all Americans in the form of lower prices. So Cali bears roughly 2/3ds of the cost, but only gets about 1/10th of the benefit.

  13. I can’t believe you didn’t mention the most important consequence of high indebtedness among law school graduates! With minimum payments at $2200 a month, how can a nascent lawyer possibly choose a field in public service, social justice, immigration law, family law, or civil rights litigation? What we desperately need is student loan forgiveness programs for lawyers in much the same way we do already for school teachers and public librarians. It is very clear that lawyers serve a vital public interest — an interest that society should make an investment in.

  14. Becuase I was focusing on the b.s. idea that high indebtedness is due to the “fact” that 20-somethings do nothing but drink Starbuck’s and martinis while eating filet mignon, while ignoring the astronomical tuition. ;)

    I’ve argued the same thing before. Oddly, many of the people who oppose a reduction in tuition say that lawyers don’t need more money and are already well-off. Well, we don’t need more attorneys in Brooks Brothers. We need more lawyers who are able to do public interest (whether because they can squeeze it in with a 50-hour-workweek in the private sector or because they are working for a non-profit), doctors who can work in rural areas, lawyers who can represent small businesses… but that’s favouring the rich.

    There are some low-income protection plans, but most of them (excepting Harvard, Stanford, and Yale) only include public-service employees. Therefore, someone clerking for a judge (who may well be hard-pressed to pay $25,000/year in loans on a $65,000/year salary) or working for a small business or JAG won’t qualify.

  15. Oh my gosh! I love chocolate moose munch. We received some as a Christmas gift this year.

    Now I have to scroll up to see what this post is actually about …. oh yeah, the cost of tuition. :( I hope Tieki Rae doesn’t see this, it’ll bum her out.

    Have a great weekend Bridget.

  16. Tammi,

    The University of Wyoming is only $21,000/year for tuition, room, board, books, fees, etc…. That’s managable.

    Okay, really serious plan for Tieki Rae: Move to D.C. after graduation, work there, and live in Virginia. Move driver’s license there, vote there, pay taxes there. She’ll then get in-state tuition at UVA (which is cheap for a top 25 school), William & Mary, and George Mason. She might be able to keep it under $120,000.

    (Stop snorting with laughter. Good private schools, by the time she graduates, will be up around $70,000/year. According to my site tracker, you haven’t clicked on my data. Harrumph. The excel spreadsheet is in your inbox. :p )

  17. Data? :) What I didn’t know had not been hurting me. You apparently are refusing to let me live like an ostrich with my head in the sand. :(

    Actually, I think Tieki is planning to attend law school in VA. As to which one … still up in the air, but she has a visit planned in March to one she is looking seriously at.

    I think we should go back to talking about chocolate moose munch. Much more fun and delicious. :)

  18. The federal government is responsible for a lot of the high cost of education. Making college loans so easy to get and pretty painless up front has not been a good thing.

    Universities have not been forced into cost cutting. They talk about it, but as far as I can see they don’t even know what it is. At the university my son attends, their idea of cost cutting is getting gold plated toilet seats instead of solid gold. (OK, not really, but you get the idea)

  19. Tammi,

    I like the dark chocolate stuff. :) You can get bags of it were EVERY piece is coated in chocolate, not just one in every four or five. :) Tasty stuff, and full of flavenoids (sp?). Also, it has nuts, which are high in protein and fiber, so it’s definitely a health food!

  20. Yeah, I just revisited the site and I most definitely have no desire to get into a protracted blog-comment debate about the perfectly obvious and ridiculously out-of-control problem of people scamming the welfare system.

    I will say two things, however:
    1) By “regular old welfare,” I mean food stamps, what we call TEA in Arkansas (laughably termed “temporary assistance”), and any other unworked-for income distributed by the state or federal government to able-bodied people who don’t work. Ian, I’d like to invite you to my hometown in the Mississippi Delta, if you want a quick hands-on education about that. But come armed! :)

    2) I have no problem paying for illegal immigrants to deliver their “anchor babies” in American hospitals as long as they are immediately deported, baby and all, back to wherever they came from. I also think that the immediate citizenship granted to a baby born in the U.S. should be denied if his/her parents are in the U.S. because they snuck in illegally.

  21. I agree with Lewdandlascivious.

    Regarding the anchor babies and the uncontrolled scamming of the welfare system. I speak of the welfare with expertise because my job involves determining eligibility for food stamps, medicaid, and cash assistance. At least 75% of the people receiving benefits are capable of working, or they are working, just not reporting the income.

    Not many illegals in this community, just lazy cheating bums.

  22. Our social welfare system is quite small compared with our military spending and the spending necessary to maintain the national debt. I find it hard to believe that welfare is really responsible for as many problems people claim it is.

    “Widespread misperception about the extent of welfare exacerbate the problems of poverty. The actual cost of welfare programs-about 1 percent of the federal budget and 2 percent of state budgets (McLaughlin, 1997)-is proportionally less than generally believed. During the 104th Congress, more than 93 percent of the budget reductions in welfare entitlements came from programs for low-income people (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 1996). Ironically, middle-class and wealthy Americans also receive “welfare” in the form of tax deductions for home mortgages, corporate and farm subsidies, capital gains tax limits, Social Security, Medicare, and a multitude of other tax benefits. Yet these types of assistance carry no stigma and are rarely considered “welfare” (Goodgame, 1993). Anti-welfare sentiment appears to be related to attitudes about class and widely shared and socially sanctioned stereotypes about the poor. Racism also fuels negative attitudes toward welfare programs (Quadagno, 1994).”

    http://www.apa.org/pi/wpo/myths.html

  23. Bridget…….Just a thought after reading this post. Not that I’d be talking about you, but it just occured to me we could cut down on the number of lawyers by cutting back on the student loans there…….hmmm……….. :) ……steve

  24. Bridget,

    I just have to say this, I think Sarah’s link above points to a bunch of mostly unsupported mumbo jumbo. I’d bet that the statistics of poverty and cost could be debunked by someone that actually studied the reports and knew more than the casual readers that it is targeted to. It certanially lacks any economic sanity…….steve

  25. Steve,

    The link is to the American Psychiatric Association, which is not the world’s foremost authority on the economics of welfare.

    More later. Exhausted from the March.

  26. Our social welfare system is quite small compared with our military spending and the spending necessary to maintain the national debt. I find it hard to believe that welfare is really responsible for as many problems people claim it is.

    Maybe so, but I reap so many more benefits from a strong military than I do from lazy welfare bums. Believe it or not Sarah, but you cannot fix poverty by throwing money at it. Truly, it just gets worse. :(

  27. Sarah,

    Your comparison is silly. It is not the proper role of government to redistribute wealth from the productive to the unproductive, so as to equalise every measure of wealth save for input of time, intellect, and industry. It is, however, the function of government to have a military; in fact, the only proper role of government is to protect its citizens against aggression from enemies, internal and external. A government fulfills that role through its legal and judicial system (internal aggression) and a military (external aggression).

    Imagine comparing the amount of research grant money that a collegiate professor spends on lab equipment and raw materials to the amount that he spends on Hershey bars. You may conclude that, if he only spent $1,000 on Hershey bars and $98,000 on lab equipment and research costs, that the Hershey bars are hardly something to complain about.

    You could also conclude that he is properly authorised to spend exactly no money on Hershey bars, and, as such, every cent of that is misspent; the relative proportions do not matter.

    This is the same situation. We do not have a government that may play Robin Hood; our country did not become the wealthiest on the planet by encouraging sloth at the expense of productivity. Military spending is the proper function of government; theft, with the threat of legal retaliation for refusal to comply, is not.

    Now, from a practical perspective, listen to Tammi and Lewd&Lascivious. They are a bit more well-informed about welfare than your average ivory-tower member of the American Psychological Association.


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