Top 50 Best Affordable Paralegal Programs

Best Most Affordable Paralegal Programs

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Students looking to enter a paralegal degree program are likely to be on the lookout for an affordable option. However, before they make up their mind, they’re likely to do a detailed search, looking for the paralegal degree program that best fits their career plans. After all, if it’s inexpensive, but doesn’t provide you with access to the career you want, it won’t be worth much to you.

Every college website and email you see, you might be asking yourself, “what is best for me? My finances? My career plans?” You want more than a career prep; you want a degree program that offers theory, hands-on activities, leadership, critical thinking skills, ethics, and decision-making.

One of the biggest questions students need answers to I how they are going to pay for tuition. Big-name colleges may offer more ‘valuable’ degrees, but they also charge higher tuition. Additionally, the number most schools quote for ‘tuition’ won’t cover room and board, books, supplies, and other fees. This is why it is vitally important for students to really think about the financial realities of college before they jump into a program.

Why a Degree from an Affordable Paralegal College?


For one thing, affordable colleges and universities may offer programs that are just as valuable as those offered by big-name and Ivy League colleges. “Valuable” being the vital word; not expensive. State colleges are required to meet certain educational standards, which benefits the students who attend by making sure that any credits they earn will transfer, financial aid will be available, and employers will know that they earned a meaningful degree when they graduate.

While some students argue that earning a degree from a prestigious school is the best way to get into the work force, it isn’t anywhere near as simple as that once you start to look at the financial side. While earning a degree from Yale can mean that you end up earning more in your future career, that isn’t necessarily true for every career or every well-known school. Sometimes, earning a degree from a state-subsidized, public college will earn you just as much or more after you take the cost of school and your future income into account. Not to mention, if you choose to earn a bachelor’s degree, you could easily take your general education courses at the least expensive state school near you and then transfer to a private school. Your degree will still come from the more prestigious university, but you could end up paying nearly half the usual cost for said degree. It’s something to think about.

Some colleges offer certificates in paralegal studies as well as degrees ranging from an associate’s up to bachelor’s. In their classes, associate degree students delve into contract law, civil litigation, legal writing, criminal law, tort law, and legal research. With these courses, students begin to build a solid foundation of knowledge they will draw from when they are working on client cases.

At this level, students are preparing to work as a skilled legal professional able to assist licensed lawyers by carrying out legal tasks. To ensure that students will be ready for these demands, community colleges teach their paralegal students about case management, investigation, research, interviewing clients and witnesses, data analysis, drafting legal documents, and litigation support.

Students earning their bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies enroll in more advanced courses including real estate law, advanced legal research, family law, advanced legal writing, and advanced legal technology. Schools with high-quality paralegal studies update courses, materials, and textbooks to ensure that students are learning materials that are applicable to their future profession. Another indicator of their high quality is approval by the American Bar Association (ABA).

Choosing and Affordable Paralegal Degree


Paying for a college education is likely to be top-of-mind for students and their families as tuition costs continue to rise. The cost of tuition may not be the same from one university or college to the next, but it is always a significant expense. Families and students should remember that they are investing in their education. While it may be expensive, they are making an investment in the student’s future, for years down the road.

Options to consider include financial aid. The only way students will find out if they qualify for this assistance is to fill out an annual Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. It must be filled out for every year the student is in college and it must also be submitted on time every year. Once the FAFSA has been submitted, it goes through processing, informing the student and their parents of the Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is the amount families are expected to be able to pay toward one year of their child’s education. If tuition is more than the EFC, the difference is the student’s need. Their financial award package is built to meet this financial need.

Financial aid comes in several forms. These include scholarships, which don’t have to be repaid; work-study, which is the opportunity to work to help offset cost; grants, which are award money that doesn’t have to be paid back; and finally, loans. Loans do have to be paid back, though some government loans do not build interest until after the student has finished school.

Students don’t have to accept every part of their financial aid award. Meaning, if they find enough scholarships to fill the gap, they may be able to avoid some student loan debt, setting them up for a brighter future. After all, higher education costs enough that it is likely to have long-term implications on a student’s life. It’s one of the most important factors the student should think about as they make their decision.

While state colleges and universities may cost less than the Ivy League colleges, the quality of their education can still be high. Students need to weigh the financial aid packages they receive from each school they are considering before making their choice. Going to community college for the first two years of college may bring the cost of college down considerably. Community colleges that have accreditation will also be able to offer financial aid to their students.

Online Options


Circumstances may require students to attend their courses fully online. This might include their professional life or family commitments, such as having to care for an elderly parent or a young child.

Luckily, earning an online paralegal degree is possible. For those students who aren’t able to find a local college or university offering this degree program, distance learning may fill their needs and allow them to earn their degree in paralegal studies. For working students, being able to take asynchronous classes—accessing their classes at times that are convenient for them—may be the only way they are able to earn a degree.

Students who plan to attend online degree programs should start by looking for the university that offers a quality degree program and also has online or flexible options. Once they find the right school, they should be able to begin and complete their degree.

Students may also choose to take an online non-credit program that can often be finished in three semesters. Some of these programs are self-paced and students may take part in field trips to local courthouses or law libraries.

Are Paralegal Programs in High Demand?


Looking at a map of current employment statistics, some states have a high need for paralegals. Even the states with lower employment levels for paralegals still have between 70 and 1,400+ working professionals in this field. These states include Alaska, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Wyoming, North and South Dakota, Idaho, and Montana.

Some states like Texas, Arizona, California, Illinois, Florida, Virginia, and Michigan have higher employment numbers for their paralegals: 6,700+ to 33,700+. Other states such as Colorado, Wisconsin, South Carolina, and Indiana fall in the middle.

Students who are transitioning from one field into another may want to consider becoming paralegals. This is especially true if these skill are in demand in their local area. Even better, they may be able to choose legal specialties that appeal to their own areas of interest. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that, between 2016 and 2026, employment opportunities for paralegals were projected to grow by 15%, which is more than the average expected growth for other occupations.

Law firms are working to streamline their costs and spending. It costs less to hire and pay a paralegal than it does to hire and pay a lawyer. Paralegals who have completed formal training may bring strong database management, communication, and computer skills with them to their jobs, offering plenty of benefit to their employers. While law firms across the country are transitioning some of their processes to technology, other processes still require humans to communicate with clients, carry out legal research, manage caseloads, and draft documents.

Best Most Affordable Paralegal College Rankings


University Headquarters is proud to rank colleges and universities from all across the U.S. We do so as a way of making the college search for students and their families easier.

Students have so many factors they need to keep in mind: accreditation, sticker price, net price, degrees offered by each school, retention and graduation rates, and more. After researching a few colleges, the student may begin to confuse the sticker price of one university with that of another or they may have difficulty even finding the information. We make it easy to keep one institution separate from another.

University HQ collects data from government sources (BLS, College Navigator, and College Scorecard, among others) and occupational salaries from private job search sites (such as PayScale). By collating this data, we can assign a rank to schools within a specific region, or with a focus toward a particular degree, such as paralegal studies. Students need not agonize over which schools have accreditation (we don’t include non-accredited schools in our list) or which ones are the most or least expensive (we account for cost but understand that this is not always the most pertinent factor). Here are just some of the factors we focus on.

Cost of tuition is one of the most important factors sought. By keeping an eye on the cost of tuition, students may choose a less expensive university or they may decide that a bit more cost is acceptable because of the student supports available. Retention rates may also be important to some students. These measure the percentage of first-year students who return to their college for the second year and tend to indicate that students were satisfied with the support they received if they return in high numbers. Graduation rates show students how many students graduated in the “normal” or expected time frame, which can also tell you something about the students that dropped out, transferred, or took an inordinate amount of time to finish their courses.

All of this data and more is collected so that students will have the objective data necessary to make the right college choice for them. They’ll have to figure the subjective part out for themselves.

1
  • Tuition
    • In-State: $2,682
    • Out-of-state: $9,286
  • Net Price: $2,702
  • Retention Rate: NA
  • Total Enrollment: 26,430
  • Undergrad Students: 26,430
  • Graduate Students: 0
  • Graduation Rate: 33%
  • St. Petersburg College
View All Their Popular Majors and Rankings
2

CUNY New York City College of Technology

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $7,320
    • Out-of-state: $15,270
  • Net Price: $5,097
  • Retention Rate: 62%
  • Total Enrollment: 15,513
  • Undergrad Students: 15,513
  • Graduate Students: 0
  • Graduation Rate: 18%
  • CUNY New York City College of Technology
3

Northeastern State University

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $6,915
    • Out-of-state: $15,315
  • Net Price: $9,790
  • Retention Rate: 66%
  • Total Enrollment: 7,349
  • Undergrad Students: 6,004
  • Graduate Students: 1,345
  • Graduation Rate: 36%
  • Northeastern State University
4
  • Tuition
    • In-State: $6,982
    • Out-of-state: $20,238
  • Net Price: $10,957
  • Retention Rate: 61%
  • Total Enrollment: 3,856
  • Undergrad Students: 3,856
  • Graduate Students: 0
  • Graduation Rate: 36%
  • Lewis-Clark State College top 100
View All Their Popular Majors and Rankings
5
  • Tuition
    • In-State: $8,553
    • Out-of-state: $11,166
  • Net Price: $11,872
  • Retention Rate: 50%
  • Total Enrollment: 1,634
  • Undergrad Students: 1,538
  • Graduate Students: 96
  • Graduation Rate: 51%
  • Charter Oak State College
View All Their Popular Majors and Rankings
6

Texas A&M University-Commerce

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $9,820
    • Out-of-state: $22,090
  • Net Price: $12,853
  • Retention Rate: 58%
  • Total Enrollment: 12,249
  • Undergrad Students: 8,349
  • Graduate Students: 3,900
  • Graduation Rate: 43%
  • Texas A&M University-Commerce
7

Idaho State University

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $7,872
    • Out-of-state: $24,494
  • Net Price: $12,999
  • Retention Rate: 63%
  • Total Enrollment: 11,766
  • Undergrad Students: 9,575
  • Graduate Students: 2,191
  • Graduation Rate: 34%
  • Idaho State University
View All Their Popular Majors and Rankings
8

University of Mississippi

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $8,828
    • Out-of-state: $25,100
  • Net Price: $13,540
  • Retention Rate: 86%
  • Total Enrollment: 21,014
  • Undergrad Students: 16,179
  • Graduate Students: 4,835
  • Graduation Rate: 67%
  • University of Mississippi
9
  • Tuition
    • In-State: $9,876
    • Out-of-state: $19,948
  • Net Price: $14,151
  • Retention Rate: 75%
  • Total Enrollment: 14,980
  • Undergrad Students: 12,662
  • Graduate Students: 2,318
  • Graduation Rate: 45%
  • Eastern Kentucky University
View All Their Popular Majors and Rankings
10

Regent University

  • Tuition
    • In-State: $18,720
    • Out-of-state: $18,720
  • Net Price: $14,785
  • Retention Rate: 77%
  • Total Enrollment: 10,483
  • Undergrad Students: 4,533
  • Graduate Students: 5,950
  • Graduation Rate: 61%
  • Regent University
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What Can You Do with a Degree as a Paralegal?


  • Corporate:
    Paralegal in a corporate environment work for larger organizations. They may research regulations, review contracts, and look for any type of business impropriety. One of their roles is to try to ensure businesses don’t break state, local, or federal laws. They rarely interact with courts, clients, or the general public.
  • Family Law:
    Paralegals in this field will help attorneys to represent individuals in child custody issues and other familial disputes. They may also organize files and send them to the opposing counsel and write letters to be sent to attorneys, the court, and to clients. Strong empathy skills are necessary because clients may be emotionally distraught. Having a patient personality may help the paralegal to get through messy court cases.
  • Estate Planning and Probate:
    These professionals work with people who may be enmeshed in difficult situations. They should be comfortable working with clients who are feeling emotional. Being able to work compassionately with elderly clients who may be overwhelmed by the legal processes will be appreciated by the clients and attorney. Having an eye for numbers and details may make a paralegal an even stronger support for the attorney they work for.
  • Transactional Paralegals:
    This paralegal takes part in large deals and transactions. They may help with corporate or financial restructuring, real estate, mergers, and acquisitions.
  • Litigation:
    This paralegal maintains documents clients have turned over. They may also carry out research for lawyers, retrieve evidence, and organize it for depositions and trials.
  • Law Librarian:
    This professional should have strong technical abilities. They may work with cloud applications, updating databases as new cases are decided.

Paralegal Graduates Earn More After College


Those with associate degrees in paralegal studies earn around $28,000 in their early career. Their mid-career salary is closer to $52,000 and their late-career salary increases as high as $87,000.

For those with the specific title of paralegal, their early-career salary is a bit higher than those who only earn an associate in the field at $35,000. And their late-career salary may increase to $72,000. Litigation paralegals make even more, with an early-career salary of around $41,000 and their late-career salaries are closer to $79,000.

However, one of the top positions in this field is reserved for corporate paralegals. These professionals do not work for legal firms, but for businesses, as mentioned before. The corporate paralegal’s early-career salary begins at $47,000 and their mid-career annual salary increases to an average of $66,000. Once they reach the later part of their careers, they may make an annual salary of $91,000. Bonuses and profit sharing may also boost their base salary by a few thousand dollars.

FAQs


  • What courses will you take in a bachelor’s paralegal studies degree?
    Courses in this degree include Introduction to Law and the Legal Profession, Computer Applications for the Legal Profession, Legal Research and Writing I, Criminal Law and Procedures, Torts and Civil Litigation, Real Estate Practice, Business Relations and Organizations, Wills, Trusts and Estates, and more.
  • What is the top salary potential with a paralegal studies degree?

    The graduate of a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies who goes on to become a corporate paralegal can earn an average salary of $91,000. This requires more of a focus on business and experience in the field, but it’s an excellent outcome considering the average cost of a bachelor’s degree.

    Additionally, a paralegal who has earned their Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies earns an average mid-career salary of $60,000 and a late-career salary of $137,000.

  • What type of accreditation should you be looking for with a paralegal degree?
    Paralegal degree programs can receive certifications or programmatic accreditation. High-quality paralegal degree programs should receive a certification (endorsement or approval) from the American Bar Association (ABA). The ABA is not allowed to accredit paralegal degree programs.
  • How can you save more money earning a paralegal degree?
    Students may save money by earning an associate degree in paralegal studies. By earning an associate degree, they may be able to earn an average of $400,000 more throughout their lives than a high school graduate earns in their working lifetime. Or, if you are determined to earn a bachelor’s, you can earn the associate from a community college and attend an inexpensive school to complete the bachelor’s program.
  • Will an online degree program for paralegals be less expensive?
    Students enrolled in an online paralegal studies program may be able to spend less for their tuition and related expenses such as room and board, parking and driving costs, laundry, food, etc.

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