Estimating personal cost of attendance

We encourage prospective students to estimate their personal cost of attendance at Vanderbilt as an important factor in deciding where to attend law school. The value of outlining a personal budget cannot be overstated; small differences in expenses can reap large rewards. Consider that reducing expenses $5.00 per day, five days per week, saves $3,900 over three years. Consider further that the total interest on a $3,900 loan repaid over ten years at an annual interest rate of 6.8% would be $2,264, making savings equal to $6,164. Looking for opportunities to lower law school expenses before you enroll can pay off in the future by protecting your future income from debt repayment obligations.

Personal cost of attendance = (Vanderbilt tuition - scholarships received) + your estimated living expenses

  • Tuition

    Annual tuition ($73,148 in 2024-25) is a fixed charge to all students. Scholarship funds are credited to tuition charges and the remainder represents the net tuition amount a student must pay. Total net tuition costs over three years equal:

    [(3 times tuition) minus (3 times scholarship)] + (potential tuition increases in years two and three).

    It bears mention that a student receiving equal scholarship offers from schools with different tuitions are not equal values. For example, a $20,000 annual scholarship is worth more at a school where annual tuition equals $55,000 than at a school with a tuition of $60,000. At the former, the student would pay $35,000 net tuition compared to $40,000 at the latter.

  • Living Expenses

    It can be difficult to estimate living expenses when moving to a new location. A law school's living expense estimate is a good place to start, but these estimates may include expenses that you might or might not personally incur. Your personal
    choices and circumstances that influence spending (e.g., living alone or with a roommate; eating out or at home; spending on entertainment, owning a car or using public transportation; etc.).will shape the amount you actually pay for your living expenses during law school.

    Many Vanderbilt Law students live comfortably while spending less than the amounts estimated by the University, thereby minimizing the indirect cost of their legal education. We encourage admitted students to consult the Obiter Dictum: Your Insider's Guide to Vanderbilt Law School in your admission packet while estimating considering their personal living expenses in Nashville. The Obiter is an extremely valuable resource written by current Vanderbilt Law students that saves new students time and resources by providing helpful detailed information about where to live, getting set up, where to eat, where to shop (services and retail), and other topics.

  • Borrowing based on your estimated expenses

    Most VLS students pay for law school with a combination of savings, earnings during law school, and student loans. About 60% of VLS students borrow to cover some of their personal tuition and living expenses during law school. Students are normally eligible to borrow up to the full cost of attendance (equal to tuition and fees plus the school’s estimate for living expenses) minus scholarships. This means that they are eligible to borrow the amount of tuition and fees not covered by scholarships, plus the full amount of estimated living expenses. While this figure is the maximum loan amount the university will approve for a qualified student borrower; you may borrow less..

    Even with the best information and advice available, estimating your living expenses for your first year can be difficult. Some new students coming to Vanderbilt take the approach of accepting the full amount of loans for which they are approved and later reducing the amount of their loans for the first year once they have arranged their living situation and established their actual personal budgets.

    Reducing the amount you borrow protects your future income from debt repayment obligations. Using savings and other assets, gifts from family and others, and in-school earnings to pay law school expenses can help keep your educational debt as low as possible.

2024-25 J.D. Estimated Cost of Attendance

Direct CostsTuition and Fees
Tuition$73,148 $36,574 for each of two semesters; flat rate tuition for all students.
VU Student Services Fee$648Recreation / Wellness Center and other University services and activities
Law School Programming Fee$700Student programming, technology, professional development, and co-curricular engagement
One-time transcript fee$100 All VU students are assessed a one-time lifetime transcript fee during their first semester. Vanderbilt University only issues official transcripts.
Student Health Fee$844Expanded access to student health care and wellness resources, including Telehealth care options, focusing on mental and physical health, nutrition, and sleep. Enhanced satellite services with multiple care locations across campus.
Total Tuition & Fees$75,440
Indirect Costs9-month estimates

While actual individual indirect costs vary depending on personal choices and circumstances that influence spending (e.g., living alone or with a roommate, eating out or at home, transportation choices, etc.), the University makes the following indirect cost estimates which determine the maximum federal loan amount available. Please note, however, that students whose actual total indirect costs are less than the total estimated cost can borrow less than the maximum amount available while knowing that additional funds (up to the maximum) are available should the need arise.
1L Only Books / Supplies$1,700$1,700 for 1L students; $500 for 2L & 3L students
Housing$15,840 $1,760 per month. Studio or shared multi-bedroom typically less.
Food$7,320$3,660 per semester.
Personal and miscellaneous / Health$6,086For personal expenses not itemized elsewhere and Health Insurance.
Loan fees$1,897Average loan fees incurred by similarly classified borrowers during the previous academic year. $0 for non-borrowers.
Total estimated indirect costs$34,369Figure at left applies to first-year students. Due to the lesser estimate for books, as above, total estimated a second- or third-year student may borrow up to $33,169.
Total Estimated Cost of Attendance, 2024-25
Tuition & Fees

(Direct Costs)
$75,440$34,999 each of two semesters. A student may borrow the amount of tuition and fees not covered by scholarship or need-based grant, e.g., a student with a $35,000 scholarship may borrow up to $40,440, or a student with no scholarship or grant may borrow up to $75,440.
Estimated Indirect Costs$34,369Amount at left includes $1,700 estimate for 1L books. Estimated indirect costs for books as above, estimated indirect cost for 2L and 3L students is $33,169. As a practical matter, students indirect costs will differ based on personal choices and circumstances. A first-year student may borrow any amount for indirect costs, as needed, up to the amount at left.
Total Estimated Cost of Attendance$109,809$108,609 for 2Ls and 3Ls due to lower book cost estimates as above.

Comparing Estimated Living Expenses

Law schools' living expense estimates are not tied to cost-of-living differences between locations, and they are not necessarily based on comparable living situations. This means that schools with lower living expense estimates do not necessarily cost less to attend.

  • Estimated living expense comparisons

    Prospective students often use law schools' estimated cost of attendance figures to estimate and compare the cost of attending the schools to which they have been admitted. The ABA Standard 509 Information Reports  show prior-year tuition/fees and estimated living expenses, and this information can also be found on each school's "ABA Required Disclosures" page on its website. (Vanderbilt's ABA Required Disclosures page ).

    Each law school makes a living expense estimate in order to set the maximum federal loan amount its students may borrow to cover living expenses. When a student who is qualified to receive federal loans submits a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to a school, the school normally allows the student to borrow the maximum amount, and the student decides how much to borrow, if any, up to that maximum. 

    The borrowing cap established by a school's living expense estimate does not necessarily reflect an amount that a typical student spends on non-tuition expenses, but it does define the maximum loan amount available for that purpose. Each school bases its estimate on its own assumptions about personal choices such as living alone or with a roommate, transportation, living in least expensive housing available, eating options, expenses for clothes, entertainment, and others. For that reason, some schools' living expense estimates might reflect a minimum amount that a student who had no financial resources other than loans might need to live frugally, while other schools' estimates might reflect an amount that would support a frugal lifestyle plus additional borrowing capacity if needed. 

    For example, Vanderbilt's 2017-18 living expense estimate is $25,818, which can be compared to one New York law school's estimate of $23,194. Because New York is more expensive than Nashville, living in New York on $23,194 is like living in Nashville on $11,676 (Cost of Living Wizard In the abstract, a student at this New York law school living on the school's borrowing cap ($23,194) and a VLS student living on $11,676 would have the same standard of living, but the latter would have additional borrowing capacity if needed.

    Your living expenses may be higher or lower than the estimate provided by the school you attend depending on the choices you make that influence your living expenses. As you compare schools' estimated living expenses, bear in mind that schools may differ in their approaches to making these estimates, and the cost of living may differ between law schools' locations.    

Tuition Payment

Tuition for the academic year is payable in two equal installments, at the beginning of the fall and spring semesters. In addition to tuition, fees include:

  • A nonrefundable seat deposit when you accept admission, which is credited toward the fall semester bill.
  • Student health insurance through Vanderbilt which may be waived if you have comparable coverage through another provider.
  • Annual activities and recreation fee, which provides access to the campus recreation center, the Sarratt Student Center and many campus events.

Refunds of Tuition and Other Charges, Tuition Payment Programs, and Other Information on Student Accounts is available from the Vanderbilt University Office of Student Accounts. 

Have Questions?

If you have any questions about the application process, please contact the Admissions Office at 615-322-6452 or