Low tuition, graduation debt make law program a steal

The university’s law school has been recognized as one of the best valued programs in the country.

In the September 2012 issue of The National Jurist, a national law publication, the university’s law school received an A- grade based on factors such as average student debt and job placement. Nathan Rice, a third-year law student from Jonesboro and Student Bar Association president, said the rating is appropriate.

“If you look at some of the schools we’re in company with — University of Florida, University of Arizona — it’s great company to have,” Rice said.

Other schools honored include Brigham Young University and the University of Iowa. The University of Alabama placed first, with job placements at 90 percent.

Rice said the equation for the recognition adds together in-state tuition, average post-graduation student debt, the percentage of employed graduates nine months after graduation and test passage rates.

“It’s really every key factor included in legal education in one behemoth of an equation,” he said.

According to the article, new American Bar Association employment data changed this year’s calculation. The ABA’s data was released for the first time last spring, and the information caused several schools, including Brigham Young, to drop ranks.

Rice said the United States has more than 180 accredited law schools, and only 47 schools made the list. He said 65 schools made the publication’s list in 2011.

Blaine Tisdale, a second year law student from Coal City and president of the Graduate Professional Student Council, said the honor exemplifies the law school’s mission statement.

“SIU law really strives to give that practical experience and to make sure tuition is low and graduation debt is low so that you can do whatever you want when you graduate,” he said. “You’re not weighted down (by debt). The way (the magazine) measures it is attuned to our strengths.”

Alicia Ruiz, director of communications and public outreach at the School of Law, said low tuition rates are something all students appreciate, but the school doesn’t always receive national recognition for it.

“It has always been our mission to make the cost affordable, not only for students as they come in but also so that they can then pursue careers in public service,” she said.

Ruiz said the minimal debt allows students the freedom to choose where to work rather than being tied into taking high-paying jobs.

Tisdale said many out-of-state law students attend the university because of the low tuition rates. Rice said the lower tuition was one of the reasons he decided to study at the law school.

“They teach the same law everywhere,” he said. “Here, we get a practical spin to it. Beyond that, it’s the small town feel (of the school).”

Rice said the law school is like a family. He said the administrators, students and professors all have close bonds.

“Law school is a tough road to travel,” he said. “At the end of the day, we’re all in the same boat.”


Every university law school class contains an assignment with a practical workforce application, which Rice said can benefit students.

“Every class you’re in has a writing assignment that gives a practical application of the law,” he said. “You’re not just learning about theoretical ideas and torts and damages. You’re learning about things that matter, things that make you a better attorney.”

Many adjunct professors at the law school are from area law firms, Rice said, and they give assignments they know will be practical. Often times, he said, the university’s law students are more prepared for externships and internships than their peers.

“People are giving the assignments to the people from SIU because (our students) know what they’re doing,” he said.

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About Karsten Burgstahler

Karsten Burgstahler can be reached at kburgstahler@dailyegyptian.com or 536-3311 ext.255.

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