States may have to spend $1.3 billion to cover tuition costs for online law schools in 2018, according to the National Association of State Colleges and Universities (NASSCU) and the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Schools (APSCS).
The cost is $800 million higher than in 2019, when states raised tuition and fees by an average of 5 percent, according the NASSCU.
Law school tuition is a relatively new phenomenon, and the NASSUC, which represents more than 500 universities and colleges, did not release any figures for 2018.
The number of state-run law schools is expected to double to about 30 in the next five years, according a 2017 report by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Advocates of higher education have lobbied hard for higher tuition, arguing that states need to invest in higher-quality law schools and boost the number of graduates who enter the workforce.
“States are taking a big hit in funding from the federal government to keep up with the increasing demand for law schools,” said Scott Anderson, a professor at Georgetown University who studies the law.
States also have to pay for online-only law schools because the federal Higher Education Act mandates that they be funded by the states, which have largely done that for law school tuition.
The federal government provides money for online schools.
States are also paying to cover the costs of a network of more than 1,000 law schools that the federal Department of Education has set up in states and localities.
Many of those schools are privately owned and operate under a set of nonprofit rules that limit their budgets.
State lawmakers and governors are required to review all proposals to open or close those schools.
More than one in four states do not have a single online law program, according and a 2016 analysis by the nonprofit Institute for Education Statistics, which tracks federal student aid and funding trends.
The report found that more than one-fifth of states lack a law school at all, and more than two-thirds have fewer than two.
Last year, a Senate committee recommended that the states fund at least one online law college.
Since then, the Senate has heard from more than 30 states, including several that were on the receiving end of federal funding.
Most have already raised tuition for 2018, though the NASSSC says more will need to be done.
Among the states that haven’t yet raised tuition are Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia.
Some states have begun cutting back on their law school budgets, including in Georgia, which slashed its law school budget by $5 million in 2019.
There is also concern that some states will close or scale back their online programs and programs will become more expensive.
In the case of Tennessee, the state is looking to cut $5.3 million in state funding by 2027, according The Tennessean newspaper.
For schools that do offer online law programs, tuition costs have gone up and students are being asked to pay more.
In 2018, online law tuition increased by $1,500 in states including Texas and Florida, the NASBU said.
A growing number of states have made it clear that students should have to sign a confidentiality agreement to enroll, which makes it easier for colleges to track students and track where they enroll, according NASB.
And many states have required students to pay fees, which can vary from school to school.
Some states have also tried to scale back or cut their online program budgets.
In North Carolina in 2019 the state cut its online law budget by more than $1 million and has not raised tuition since.
In Georgia in 2018 it reduced its online program budget by almost $1 billion.
In 2019, the federal agency that administers the Higher Education Cost Containment Act said that states must make their online law funding more accountable and transparent.
If states have to close or reduce their online offerings, they will have to provide students with a more robust online system to navigate the system, said Andrew W. Gorman, director of the Center for State Innovation at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
But it’s unclear whether they will be able to do that.
While the federal Government Accountability Office has said states should be able see how their students are spending money, states may be reluctant to provide detailed information on how students are paying their bills, according Mark Greenberg, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning think tank.
When states do open or expand their online institutions, there are often changes made to make the online experience more convenient, he said.
Students will have more flexibility to find their way around the website.
They’ll also be able access a wide range of information from their friends and family, such as the schools location and tuition breakdown.
That may be especially important for students in rural areas who have less online access. The