California is considered one of the most important tourist, academic and life-supporting destinations. It’s also among the most expensive states to live in, which is why a lot of people struggle to lead rich student lives as they’re in college. The same applies to law students who have to cash in a lot of money to complete their studies and pass their bar exams. California is known for many things, but the universities and colleges, including the ones specializing in law education, excel compared to other states.
There are two types of schools in California, accredited law schools and unaccredited law schools. Some schools are more affordable than others, but because there are a lot of people who want to get in and try their luck and skills studying law, the acceptance rates are rather low compared to other states.
Most California-based law schools provide an excellent education for students who want to conduct law in their further careers. Educators and professors are the most distinguished people of law, offering in-depth education and knowledge and hands-on experience examples.
California is known as the Golden State, after all, which means that all the best students will want to be part of some of the most distinguished law schools. After all, being a person of law doesn’t mean that you’re just good at debating and winning arguments with your parents, friends, and peers. That’s why it’s important to establish a good educational path, something that law schools offer.
Given the life standard of the Golden State, after all, the Silicon Valley and all the celebrities drive the prices high up, and the education costs are astronomically high. Nevertheless, there are still some good opportunities for students who want to study affordably.
If you are looking for a law school but don’t have a high budget for education and student loan is out of the question, we wrote this article to aid you through your search. We listed the best law schools in California which won’t break your bank.
Continue reading to learn more about the tuitions and also inform yourself about other conditions like bar exam passing rates and acceptance rates.
Things to Consider Before You Go to Cheap Law School in California
Even though being able to study under your budget, without owing anything to anyone sounds attractive, it’s still important to consider a few more things and ratings before applying to particular schools.
Read about our take on different aspects of studying at an affordable law school.
In California, it’s difficult to find a cheap law school. It’s no secret that California has among the highest standards for students, especially at institutions that have two tuition plans for residents of California and those who come from different states.
Lower tuition plays a great role in whether someone will apply or not. However, even the cheapest law schools don’t go much below $50,000 for tuition. If you are opting for a part-time degree, it’s comforting to know that they are significantly more affordable and up to $40,000 for the most expensive college.
Still, tuition is not everything, don’t forget that accommodation and food are also being charged separately, so this is another thing you should put into consideration when applying for a law school.
If the school is known and has a good reputation, the acceptance rate is likely lower. Such schools usually accept fewer students so that professors can fully commit to them and their education. Nevertheless, it also means that there’s great competition among the students, who all want to get an opportunity to study at distinguished educational institutions in California.
On the other hand, schools that have a higher acceptance rate mean that it’s genuinely an easier schools to get into. Still, it’s not that simple. It also means that there are fewer yearly applications compared to some other, bigger schools.
Such schools are usually alternative options for students who didn’t get into the first intended school. They are also a great option for students who find it closer to home compared to some other schools, so they wouldn’t have to pay for the dorm and other expenses covered within the university.
Bar Passage Rate
This may be one of the most important things to consider when choosing a good law school on the budget. Bar passage rate indicates what is the percentage of students passing the bar state exam on the first attempt.
This exam is important because it allows graduates from the law school to finally apply their knowledge and skill and work in the service of the laws of the United States.
Most good law schools try to keep this rate above 90% or eventually 80% in some other schools. However, schools with lower-ranking usually also have a lower bar passage rate.
If a school has a rating above 50% that can still be considered decent because for future students it means that there’s more than 50% that they won’t have to take their bar exam the second time.
Publicly, it’s not good because it means that at least 50% of students fail to pass the most important exam that grants them the right to proceed with their careers.
Indeed, the ratings such as acceptance rate, tuition, LSAT score, bar passage rate, and others are good indicators of whether some school is good, you should also take other considerations into the account, like whether that school has decent professors if there’s an opportunity for internships, growth and what’s other students and alumni opinion on these schools.
Inform yourself during the school open days, forums, Reddit, Quora, and other options. If you’re curious about the environment for your child, you should consider joining some Facebook groups and hearing first-hand opinions from other students there.
7 Best Cheap Law Schools in California
Note: Below are the cheapest law schools in California. While listing, we focused on tuition in-state and out-of-state as well as schools that only have single tuition. We also focused on other factors like the acceptance rate and BAR rate.
We also used statistical information from US News and ilrg.com to provide the most up-to-date information regarding tuition and other information.
1. University of San Diego – School of Law
- Tuition: $58,821
- US News Ranking: 64
- Acceptance Rate: 35.4%
- Bar Passage Rate: 76.1%
The University of San Diego may not have what’s considered the cheapest tuition. However, it’s worth noting that both in-state and out-of-state students pay the same tuition which is comforting for people who want to try their life in the Golden State.
Nevertheless, the University of San Diego is one of the most distinguished educational institutions in California. Its acceptance rate has only 35.4% which is less than other law schools across the United States. Nevertheless, that only goes on to show that a lot of people are interested in studying here.
The application fees are $0. However, it’s worth noting that the School of Law of the University of San Diego also offers a part-time student option, in which case the studying fees are $43,581.
The university focused on education in international law, as well as corporate and business law. Additionally, students will educate themselves in intellectual property law, healthcare law, and others. The bar passage rate is 76% and while that’s a relatively decent rating, it’s still low compared to some other, pricier universities.
2. Golden Gate University School of Law
- Tuition: $52,880
- US News Ranking: 147-197
- Acceptance Rate: 61.3%
- Bar Passage Rate: 47.6%
Golden Gate University’s school of law, may not be everyone’s first choice when enrolling in law schools. While it has committed personnel and professors that excel at teaching intellectual property law, taxation laws, environmental law, and the rest of the legal studies, it’s worth noting that the bar passage rate is only 47.6%.
That essentially means that only 47% of this school’s graduates pass their bar exam on the first attempt, which is not flattering for this institution, and neither it is encouraging students to consider going there for their first wish.
Still, if you want to have an easy seat in this school, rest assured that there’s a stunning 61% acceptance rate. While that’s not some significantly high value, it’s still higher than the values of the vast majority of schools in California, let alone San Francisco.
According to U. S. News, it’s also not the highest ranked school, given that it’s located at 147-197 spot on the ranking. Still, it’s a great school for gaining fundamental knowledge and kickstarting your career in law.
3. University of San Francisco Law School
- Tuition: $52,190
- US News Ranking: 147-192
- Acceptance Rate: 55.5%
- Bar Passage Rate: 51.8%
University of San Francisco Law School is one of the more affordable options in California. It’s equipped with professors and personnel that prepare students for a lifetime of advocacy in healthcare law, intellectual property law, and others.
It’s ranked 147-192 among the best law schools ranking in the U.S. News, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t get the necessary knowledge and skills to become a lawyer, attorney, or other staff of law.
The acceptance rate is quite decent and equals 55.5%, which is more than the vast majority of schools offer and although its tuition is lower than other California-based law schools, the institution offers various scholarships and stipend programs for students.
Unfortunately, the bar passage rates are slightly disappointing, and based on the calculations of previous years, it equals only 51.8% for the first time passing. It’s no secret that the bar exam can be quite difficult at times, but it’s also important to note that there are schools with 80-90% rates.
The bar exam rates are probably what discourages students from studying here, as there are universities with much higher rates, as mentioned above. Nevertheless, those who are restricted on a budget have a lot of educational and growth opportunities if they opt to study at the University of San Francisco, especially if they opt for a more affordable, part-time educational path or choose a cross-degree with a business major.
4. Western State College of Law at Westcliff University
- Tuition: $43,120
- US News Ranking: 147-192
- Acceptance Rate: 52.7%
- Bar Passage Rate: 58.3%
Western State College of Law is part of the Westcliff University and while it may not be the highest-ranking law school in California, let alone the United States, it is one of the universities where it may be easier to get into and make notable results that will be important for your career.
Western State College of Law continues improving and offering a better academic experience for the students that it welcomes every year. Additionally, it has applications that are open until July, which is encouraging for people who didn’t manage to enroll in any other university.
Tuition is cheaper as compared to those other colleges on the list. Furthermore, you’ll pay around $28,000 if you enroll part-time, which makes this school a really good option for people who want to study part-time and enroll full-time later.
The acceptance of 52.7% shows that more than half of the applications pass through, but it also shows that there are fewer people who apply to this college as opposed to the values of other colleges. Still, that’s good for you because that means you’ll face less competition.
While this school provides great teachings on property law, taxation, healthcare, and other important fields of law studies, the bar passage rate is only 58.3% which means that only that many students pass the exam from the first attempt.
5. Loyola Marymount University Law School
- Tuition: $60,860
- US News Ranking: 67
- Acceptance Rate: 36.3%
- Bar Passage Rate: 74.2%
Loyola Marymount law school is one of the best law schools in California with distinguished rankings and students that exceed all the expectations set on them. It’s ranked as 67th best law school as per the US News Ranking and provides great results in the field of law and its sub-fields.
The acceptance rate at this university is 36.3%, which is higher than the most distinguished schools of law, but still lower than some schools we listed above. The students are overall satisfied and continue to enroll in law programs thanks to educated professors and flexible school programs full of different challenges and in-depth curricula.
The tuition is sort of higher compared to other schools on the list. However, if you choose to attend part-time, you’ll pay about $40,000. The bar passage rate is also decent and exceeds most other schools that we listed above.
The acceptance rate to bar passage rate ratio is a bit underwhelming, and the statistics have seen a decline over the past couple of years, but this school still yields great results and provides all the means for students to become successful lawyers, attorneys, judges and other professions within the law.
6. Santa Clara University Law School
- Tuition: $54,768
- US News Ranking: 133
- Acceptance Rate: 57.7%
- Bar Passage Rate: 76.9%
Santa Clara University may be the best option for students who want to keep close to the Silicon Valley within the reach of crucial startups and great law firms. It consists of two programs a full-time J.D. program as well as a part-time evening program, in which case the tuition is cheaper.
It may not have the best US News Ranking, but that’s the cost of choosing a slightly cheaper law school than the others. Nevertheless, this institution is constantly improving and growing, making better offers to the students and putting them in a position to work at vast law corporations one day.
It also has a decent acceptance rate of 57.7% so in case Santa Clara University is your first pick to go to university without too much competition while still having a nice overall ranking. When it comes to the bar passage rate, it is also decent, although slightly lower than the perfect one.
Nevertheless, it’s still comforting that so many people pass the important bar exam from the first attempt, which is an important step to working professionally in law.
7. Southwestern Law School
- Tuition: $55,316
- US News Ranking: 142-197
- Acceptance Rate: 46.1%
- Bar Passage Rate: 52.3%
Southwestern Law School is a private accredited school with a J.D. program in Los Angeles. Being a private school, its tuition is still a bit higher than average, but it’s still considered a cheap school for the standards of private schools.
The full-time enrollment is $55,316, while part-time evening programs cost $36,000 which is more acceptable and approachable for people who want to study and work at the same time. The school excels at providing education in the fields of human rights, property law, healthcare laws, as well as media law, international law, and criminal law.
The acceptance rate is a little lower than what would be expected from higher school. Nevertheless, there is still a great chance that you can break through the competition and secure yourself a spot at this educational institution.
What’s a little disappointing is the bar passage rate which is barely above the threshold of 50%. That means that about every second person passes the bar exam from the first attempt, while others would have to repeat it when it’s acceptable next.
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