Contact: Aaron N. Taylor
March 14, 2016

BLOOMINGTON, Ind.—Newly-released data by the Law School Survey of Student Engagement (LSSSE) analyzes law student debt trends during the 10-year period, 2006 to 2015. The report, How a Decade of Debt Changed the Law Student Experience, provides a compelling view of the rising nature of law student debt and how those trends affected various aspects of the student experience. The report also explores the nature and sources of law student stress.

According to Aaron N. Taylor, director of LSSSE and assistant professor of law at Saint Louis University School of Law:
“While we are all well aware that law student debt has increased significantly over the past decade, this year’s annual results provide a nuanced view of these trends. Both the extent of the increases and the uneven manner in which they have been distributed are concerning. The data strongly suggest that while law school is more expensive across-the-board, the bulk of the increased costs is being born by students in the least favorable positions to incur them.”

Debt Trends
Over the 10-year timeframe, increasing proportions of LSSSE respondents reported expecting high law school debt. In 2006, 32% of respondents expected to incur more than $100,000 in debt during their law school matriculation. By 2011, that proportion had increased to 44%, a level at which it remained in 2015.
Debt and Institutional Sector
In 2006, only 11% of LSSSE respondents attending public law schools expected debt of more than $100,000; by 2015, this proportion had almost tripled to 31%. Among private school respondents, the proportion increased from 38% in 2006 to 50% in 2015.
Debt and Race
In 2006, there were only marginal racial and ethnic differences in expectations of more than $100,000 in debt. By 2015, 61% of black respondents and 56% of Latino respondents expected debt at this level, compared to about 40% of white and Asian respondents.
Debt and LSAT Score
In 2006, 16% of respondents with the LSAT scores of 155 or below expected to owe more than $120,000—the same proportion as those with higher LSAT scores. By 2015, however, the proportion for the 155-or-below group was 37%, almost double the 20% proportion of the higher-LSAT group.
Debt and Satisfaction
In each survey year, respondents who expected to owe more than $120,000 were noticeably less likely to respond favorably to LSSSE satisfaction questions. In 2015, 79% of these respondents had favorable views of their law school experiences, compared to 88% of those expecting no debt.

In 2015, 74% of respondents who expected to owe more than $120,000 stated they would attend the same law school again, compared to 87% of those expecting no debt. This 13-percentage point difference was the largest among the survey years.
Law Student Stress
About three-quarters of respondents reported that concerns about academic performance and academic workload were sources of high stress and anxiety. More than half of respondents indicated that concerns about job prospects and finances (including student debt) were sources of high stress and anxiety.

Higher expected debt was associated with higher stress and anxiety. More than half of respondents who expected to owe more than $80,000 reported experiencing high levels of stress or anxiety during the school year, compared to 41% of those who expected no debt.

In 2015, 70% of respondents who expected to owe more than $120,000 reported high levels of stress relating to finances and student loans, compared to only 9% of respondents expecting no debt.

LSSSE’s 2015 Annual Results can be downloaded from the LSSSE Web site results
About LSSSE. In 2015, 21,849 law students at 80 law schools in the U.S. and Canada responded to the LSSSE Survey. As part of the Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research, LSSSE has been a provider of research products and services centered on the study of the law student experience since 2004. In twelve administrations, 190 law schools in the U.S., Canada, and Australia have administered the LSSSE Survey, eliciting almost 300,000 student responses.
Copyright © 2016 Law School Survey of Student Engagement (LSSSE), All rights reserved.

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