UH Law graduates had the lowest debt of all U.S. ranked law schools in 2015

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Beverly Creamer, (808) 389-5736
Media Consultant, William S. Richardson School of Law
Posted: Jul 22, 2016

UH Law School graduation ceremonies in May 2015.
UH Law School graduation ceremonies in May 2015.

Graduates from the William S. Richardson School of Law at the UH Mānoa campus in 2015 are carrying the least amount of law school debt among 183 ranked U.S. law schools, according to a recent survey by U.S. News & World Report.

Average debt for 2015 UH Law School graduates who took out loans to pay for their legal education was $54,988. That was less than half the average debt nationally among the 183 law schools that submitted data to U.S. News.  The average debt nationally for graduates from those schools was $112,748.

“This goes to show that we really are an affordable option for law school,” said Cyrelle White, UH Law School Financial Aid Manager. “And it also shows that our students are making really smart financial decisions.”

U.S. News released the latest law school debt information as one of its “short list” surveys, compiling a list of the 10 most cost effective law schools from among those ranked in the U.S. Of the 10 schools listed in which graduates borrowed the least, the average debt was $62,735.

The survey also showed that graduates from the class of 2015 at Thomas Jefferson School of Law had the most debt – an average of $172,726.  The survey also pointed out that schools vary when it comes to how much financial help they provide students through various options.

White said help is generous at UH Law School, and it is possible for law students to structure their financing to receive as much as $9,000 to $10,000 or more annually through a combination of need-based grants, scholarships managed by the UH Foundation and the Law School Admissions Office, and the federal work/study program. The comparatively low annual in-state tuition for 2015-16 was $20,880, with out-of-state tuition at $42,384.

Students are also eligible to borrow up to $20,500 annually in direct low interest unsubsidized federal loans, although White said many at Richardson do not borrow the full amount.

Law Dean Avi Soifer has often pointed out that Richardson Law School offers an exceptional legal education at a very reasonable cost. Said Soifer, “Not only do we offer an absolutely first-rate education, but our graduates are not saddled with debilitating debt. Richardson students thrive in an unusually supportive and encouraging environment. We take financial assistance very seriously, and we help students to structure their financing carefully to make their dreams of law school and leadership as alumni a reality.”

Soifer added that Financial Aid Management will be assumed by Heather L.C. Smith-Lee when Cyrelle White relocates to Italy with her husband, who is in the military. Smith-Lee, who returns to Hawai‘i after several years as a program consultant for a private tutoring company in New York, was formerly the Admissions and web coordinator for Richardson.

White said the financial support at Richardson breaks down as follows:

  • Students with the most financial need may receive grants up to $4,000 annually based on their FAFSA data.
  • Federal work/study pays $3,500 a year for up to 20 hours of work a week, and students are able to serve as research assistants to Law School faculty members.
  • STAR scholarships through the UH Foundation range from $1,000 to $2,500.
  • Incoming first-year students are also eligible for $5,000 merit scholarships awarded by the Admissions Office.

“It’s definitely possible for incoming students to have the merit scholarship and the need-based grant, which combine to total around $9,000 a year,” said White.

At UH Law School, approximately 100 of the total of 305 JD students are receiving need-based grants that do not have to be repaid, said White, with 70 receiving scholarships through the UH Foundation for the coming year, and with 10 students awarded work/study grants each year. A number of incoming first-year students will be receiving $5,000 merit scholarships from funds donated by the Law School faculty, which are renewable for the students' second and third years.

For more information, visit: https://www.law.hawaii.edu/