WVU Assistant Dean for Admissions and Student Financial Support Beth Pierpont | Photo courtesy of WVU

MORGANTOWN – A financial education company's recent high ranking of West Virginia University College of Law points up the benefits of graduating new attorneys with well managed debt loads, a university admissions and financial support official said.

"Our students receive a top-notch legal education for less," WVU Assistant Dean for Admissions and Student Financial Support Beth Pierpont told The West Virginia Record. "This means that our students graduate and start their professional life with less debt than other law school graduates."

That, in turn, leads to greater opportunities that graduates burdened with more student debt might have, Pierpont said. 

"This allows our graduates to pursue opportunities working in public interest law, small firms or solo practice among other opportunities that can positively impact the community," she said.

The cost of law school and paying back the almost unavoidable student loans are generally included in a prospective student's calculation about whether law school is worth it. With the average cost of law school coming in and just less than $140,000 and the very real concern about finding a job that will pay off student loan debt, student concern about those calculations is very real.

Student Loan Hero recently ranked West Virginia University's Law School 34th best law school in the country for student loan debt. That study found WVU law students graduate with an average law school debt $82,683 but go into jobs paying an average salary of $62,897 to service that debt.

Student Loan Hero surveyed 116 law schools, based on data from U.S. News & World Reports college rankings and employment data from the National Association for Law Placement. Student Loan Hero's study took that data and ranked the law schools based on four factors: the ratio of the average post-law school starting salary to the average indebtedness; annual in-state tuition; percentage of graduates leaving law school with student debt; and employment rates of recent law school graduates. From that, the study developed a list of the top 50 most affordable law schools in the U.S. based on graduates' average law school debt and average starting salaries.

WVU College of Law ranked ahead of law schools at University of Missouri, Washburn University, University of Kansas, University of Minnesota, University of Mississippi and University of New Mexico, which came in 35 through 40 respectively in the Student Loan Hero study.

"We work as a team at WVU Law for the benefit of our students," Pierpont said. "Our Career Services office works tirelessly to help our students find the best experiences while in law school, which in turn helps our students secure good paying jobs upon graduation. We work hard as a university to keep tuition costs down with initiatives such as the College of Law’s Loyalty Tuition Program where out-of-state residents who have graduated from any West Virginia college or university are offered in-state tuition. In addition, we award competitive scholarships that help students keep their costs low."

Pierpont also offered some advice for prospective law school students considering which college to attend. 

"I would tell students that they should really do their homework and compare costs at each law school they are considering attending," she said. "If they are unsure, call and talk to the law school about their numbers. I know cost of law school is important to students, and it can be difficult at times to get the full picture, so use the resources offered at each school. Student should talk to admissions, financial aid, career services, and any other department they have questions for so that they can make the best decision for themselves."

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