In the following ranking, we examine the top 15 best affordable paralegal studies degrees. Behind every successful private law firm is a team of hardworking legal assistants and paralegals who operate behind the scenes, conducting research, organizing files, preparing paperwork, and helping with other law-related tasks. Although paralegals are not able to actually practice law and argue before a court, many of their responsibilities overlap with those of an attorney. If you are considering becoming a lawyer, have an interest in the legal field, or simply want to dedicate your life to fighting for justice for your clients, a Bachelor’s in Paralegal Studies may be the degree for you. Below we have identified 15 affordable colleges for a paralegal studies degree and ranked them according to two key metrics: affordability and class size.
We understand it can be overwhelming, not to mention time-consuming, for prospective students to research colleges and universities across the country, especially if they are looking for cheap paralegal studies degrees. To provide our readers with the most comprehensive look at the best affordable colleges for a paralegal studies degree, we developed the following methodology based on the average cost of attendance and student-to-faculty ratios. To get our initial list of schools, we searched for bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies using the College Navigator tool at the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). We then narrowed down the search results from 30 colleges and universities to the top 15 based on the methodology.
Average Cost of Attendance
Although it might be tempting to simply go to the cheapest college on the list and apply, it is also important to look at what that school has to offer first. In other words, is the program ABA-accredited? Does it offer opportunities for hands-on learning? Are extracurriculars available in the field that allow you to gain experience outside of the classroom? Although tuition is important, especially on a ranking of affordable paralegal studies degrees, try to look at the big picture before choosing your paralegal studies degree program. For this article, we ranked the tuition based on how much an in-state student would pay for one academic year of study and used tuition rates provided by the NCES. Out-of-state tuition costs are provided for reference purposes only.
Under $7,500: 3 points
$7,500 to $15,000: 2 points
$15,001 and above: 1 point
Finally, a school’s student-to-faculty ratio acts as a window through which we can see the learning environment of each institution. In most cases, colleges and universities with high ratios tend to provide larger class sizes, while those with low ratios are typically known for offering smaller, more intimate settings. When considering student-to-faculty ratios, ask yourself what it is you are looking for in your academic experience, whether that be the opportunity to develop close relationships with your professors or to blend into the background without too many interactions with others. Although there are pros and cons to both large and small institutions, for the purpose of this ranking, the schools with the lowest student-to-faculty ratios, as reported by NCES, earned the most points.
10:1 or less: 3 points
11:1 to 15:1: 2 points
Greater than 15:1: 1 point
Ranking Top 15 Best Affordable Colleges for a Paralegal Studies Degree
15. University of Southern Mississippi
Located in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, the University of Southern Mississippi is a public research university that operates its main campus in Hattiesburg, Mississippi as well as a second campus in Long Beach. At Southern Miss, students have their choice of one of two affordable degrees in paralegal studies: a cheap Bachelor of Arts in Legal Studies with concentrations in either paralegal or pre-law. The top-value paralegal track is the oldest paralegal education program approved by the American Bar Association in the state, and the pre-law track is designed for aspiring lawyers and attorneys. Students are required to complete 120 to 124 hours of study, depending on the track. The low-cost paralegal studies degree provides coursework in property law, title searching and loan document preparation, equity practices, legal drafting, legal research, civil litigation, law office computing and management, and commercial skills for paralegals. Students in both tracks benefit from rigorous coursework in practical legal skills as well as access to networking opportunities and internships. Specifically, the paralegal studies concentration prepares graduates for employment in government offices, businesses, and private law firms.
Legal Studies (Paralegal) BA
Legal Studies (Pre-Law) BA
In-State Tuition: $8,624
Out-of-State Tuition: $10,624
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 17:1
14. Minnesota State University Moorhead
Minnesota State University Moorhead, established in 1887, is a public university and a member of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System. The inexpensive paralegal studies degree at MSUM is one of only five American Bar Association-approved four-year program of its kind in Minnesota, South Dakota, and North Dakota, and one of nearly 80 approved programs in the U.S. Students are required to complete 120 credits of study, including a 42-credit liberal arts core. This top-value paralegal studies degree familiarizes students with all aspects of the paralegal field, including a deep emphasis in research and writing, and specific courses of study in commercial law, litigation, law and probate, and elder law. Within the low-cost Bachelor of Science in Paralegal program, students may choose one of two emphasis areas: litigation or transactions. Required internships provide students with real-world, practical experience to prepare them for law school or legal careers. Students are encouraged to actively engage in volunteer services in the Moorhead-Fargo community to develop experience and citizenship qualities. Approximately 95 percent of students attend law school or find related employment after graduating with their degree.
BS in Paralegal
In-State Tuition: $8,496
Out-of-State Tuition: $15,906
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 19:1
13. SUNY College of Technology at Canton
Canton, New York
Recognized among the top affordable colleges for a paralegal studies degree, the State University of New York (SUNY) at Canton is a public college located in Canton, New York. Established in 1906, the school confers a cheap Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies that is the only four-year undergraduate program of its kind within the 64-campus SUNY System. The high-value curriculum covers legal writing and legal research as well as various areas of law such as trusts and estates, wills, real property law, negligence and intentional torts, family law, criminal practice, constitutional law, civil litigation, and business law. This low-cost degree program also includes an internship option in which students use their real-world exposure to begin their careers and network while pursuing their degree. Instructors include practicing or former attorneys, which allows students to learn from the experience of professionals from the private sector and from governmental agencies. Students may also choose to pursue a 3+3 program and save on one full year of tuition by completing a bachelor’s at SUNY Canton and a law degree at the University at Buffalo School of Law, graduating in six years instead of seven.
Legal Studies – B.S.
In-State Tuition: $8,389
Out-of-State Tuition: $12,379
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 17:1
12. Brandman University
Road Irvine, California
Located in Irvine, California, Brandman University is a private, nonprofit institution of higher education within the Chapman University System and a school dedicated toward providing programs for working adults. With more than 25 campuses throughout California and Washington as well as online, Brandman is an accredited university for a paralegal studies degree. Students may earn a top-value Bachelor of Arts in Legal Studies, Paralegal Profession that is designed to produce ethical problem-solvers who apply research, analytical, and critical thinking skills in legal contexts. The core curriculum consists of coursework in alternative dispute resolution, trial preparation, litigation, and the foundations of law. It also provides students with the knowledge they need to support lawyers by organizing materials for court presentations, drafting formal documents, and conducting legal research. Students who complete the economical B.A. in Legal Studies with a concentration in paralegal are eligible to sit for the Certified Paralegal Exam (NALA), the Paralegal Core Competencies Exam (NFPA), and to seek employment as a paralegal within the state of California.
BA in Legal Studies, Paralegal Profession
In-State Tuition: $12,380
Out-of-State Tuition: $12,380
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 15:1
11. Washburn University
Established in 1865, Washburn University is a public institution of higher education in Topeka, Kansas that offers affordable undergraduate, graduate, and pre-professional programs in a variety of fields. Students seeking a low-cost paralegal studies degree may earn a high-value Bachelor of Legal Studies that includes 27 hour of general education requirements and 12 hours of university requirements as well as 30 credits in the major. Economical areas of study include litigation, interviewing and investigation, legal writing, legal research, law office technology, and an introduction to paralegal studies. An internship and legal studies capstone are also required. Students may then focus their degree through 21 credit hours of electives in areas such as elder law, personal injury law, wills and estate administration, or family law. Other topics in legal studies include courses in diversity, the judicial process, critical reasoning, mass media law, and constitutional law. Graduates are prepared to assist practicing lawyers in settings such as private law firms, businesses, and government agencies.
Bachelor of Legal Studies
In-State Tuition: $8,312
Out-of-State Tuition: $18,560
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 15:1
10. CUNY New York City College of Technology
Brooklyn, New York
Recognized as one of the most affordable colleges for a paralegal studies degree, CUNY New York City of Technology, also known simply as City Tech, is a public institution located in Brooklyn, New York. The school offers a cheap Bachelor of Science in Legal Assistant Studies, the first baccalaureate paralegal studies degree of its kind offered at any public institution of higher education in New York. Within the low-cost, 120-credit program, students complete 21 credits in general education requirements as well as 51 credits in program-specific classes. Affordable areas of study include legal technology, civil law and procedure, legal ethics, legal research, real estate law, wills, estates and trusts, criminal law, legal document preparation, and either advanced legal research or an internship. The top-value curriculum includes upper-level coursework that introduces students to more specialized areas of law and increases computer and communication skills. Students also have the added advantage of developing their knowledge of legal research and their familiarity with the law before entering law school or graduate school.
Legal Assistant Studies – BS
In-State Tuition: $7,120
Out-of-State Tuition: $14,790
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 18:1
9. East Central University
Established in 1909 as East Central State Normal School, East Central University is an affordable college for paralegal studies, located in Ada, Oklahoma. ECU is one of six schools that make up Oklahoma’s Regional University System, and it enrolls around 4,500 undergraduate and graduate students each year. The College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences at ECU offers a cheap 124-hour Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies that includes 44 hours of general education requirements and 54 credits within the major. Required economical coursework includes topics in civil procedure and litigation, legal systems applications, legal research and writing, and legal ethics, professional responsibility, and advanced litigation. Students are also required to gain hands-on experience through a legal internship. Electives are available to help further focus the program through studies in administrative law, criminal law, family law, real estate law, contracts, evidence, torts, and wills, estates, trusts, and probate. Most legal studies classes at ECU are based on focused projects and lectures, allowing students to investigate the connection between politics and law.
Legal Studies – B.S.
In-State Tuition: $6,810
Out-of-State Tuition: $16,020
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 18:1
8. The University of West Florida
The University of West Florida, a mid-sized public university located in Pensacola, Florida, was established in 1963. UWF is a designated space-grant institution and sits on a whopping 1,600-acre main campus, the third-largest in the State University System of Florida. UWF provides a cheap Bachelor of Arts in Legal Studies designed for students considering law school or seeking employment as an office administrator or paralegal. The low-cost curriculum provides students with a broad understanding of the function and role of the legal system as well as the basic principles of law. Specifically, this high-value program covers persuasive writing, oral advocacy, ethical awareness, research skills, and substantive law. Students pursuing this cost-effective paralegal studies degree benefit from small classes and high-quality, experienced faculty dedicated to the success of their students. UWF also provides opportunities for students to participate in clubs and organizations, complete internships, and conduct research.
Legal Studies, B.A.
In-State Tuition: $6,360
Out-of-State Tuition: $19,241
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 21:1
7. Utah Valley University
Utah Valley University, an affordable university for a paralegal studies degree, offers low-cost undergraduate and graduate degrees to nearly 40,000 students each year. Established in 1941 and formerly known as Utah Valley State College, UVU offers a cheap Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies that focuses heavily on the technical and applied aspects of the legal profession and provides dynamic offerings on many in-demand topics in clinical practice and law. The American Bar Association-approved curriculum is provided by the Woodbury School of Business and includes a variety of subjects critical to success in the legal field, including business law, family law, criminal law and procedure, technology law in practice, legal research and writing, and civil litigation. Graduates are prepared for careers as court clerks, litigation specialists, legal assistants, paralegals, law clerks, and more.
Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies
In-State Tuition: $5,726
Out-of-State Tuition: $16,296
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 25:1
6. University of North Georgia
The University of North Georgia is a public institution of higher learning and a member of the University System of Georgia. Established in 2013 through a merger of Gainesville State College and North Georgia College & State University, UNG operates campus locations in Blue Ridge, Cumming, Dahlonega, Gainesville, and Oconee. At its Gainesville campus, the school offers a best-value paralegal studies degree in the form of a cheap Bachelor of Applied Science through the Mike Cottrell College of Business. It is one of only seven programs in the state to be approved by the American Bar Association. Students complete 42 hours in core curriculum requirements, taking classes in law office management, legal research and writing, criminal procedure and litigation, paralegal ethics and professional responsibility, business law, and interviewing and investigating techniques. This low-cost degree program also includes 21 hours electives through which students may further focus their degree on their personal interests and professional goals. Graduates are prepared to seek gainful employment in the legal field, working under the direction and supervision of a licensed attorney.
Paralegal Studies (B.A.S.)
In-State Tuition: $4,692
Out-of-State Tuition: $13,514
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 19:1
5. St. Petersburg College
St. Petersburg, Florida
With the lowest tuition on our list, it goes without saying that St. Petersburg College is recognized as one of the most affordable colleges for a paralegal studies degree. Located in St. Petersburg, Florida, St. Petersburg College was founded in 1927 and is both a member of the Florida College System and a designated state college. SPC confers an inexpensive American Bar Association-approved Bachelor of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies degree that prepares graduates to seek employment as paralegals and legal assistants in corporate legal departments, governmental entities, and law firms. The cheap 120-credit curriculum includes major core courses in areas such as comparative legal systems, logic and the law, a legal writing seminar, U.S. constitutional law, computers and the law office, and a seminar in professional responsibility. The program culminates in a required final course in the form of a paralegal studies capstone.
Paralegal Studies B.A.S. Degree
In-State Tuition: $2,682
Out-of-State Tuition: $9,286
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 23:1
4. John F. Kennedy University
Pleasant Hill, California
Established in 1964, John F. Kennedy University is a private institution of higher education that was established to offer continuing opportunities for nontraditional and working students. Students seeking an affordable paralegal studies degree have the option to pursue a low-cost Bachelor of Arts in Legal Studies, the only American Bar Association-approved bachelor’s degree in northern California, that can be completed in conjunction with an ABA-approved paralegal certificate program. The best-value curriculum requires a minimum of 180 quarter-units of study, including eight units of electives, 47 upper-division units in the legal studies area, and 21 units of core requirements. Students may complete the inexpensive degree program in seven quarters of full-time study or eight quarters of part-time study. Students also have the option to pursue a four-course, 12-unit concentration in advanced legal technology through which they gain project management and software skills specifically geared toward the legal profession. Optional internships are available at community law clinics, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and local law firms. Approximately 82 percent of graduates are employed after graduating, and more than 30 percent of alum move onto law school after earning their degree.
Bachelor of Arts in Legal Studies
In-State Tuition: $8,500
Out-of-State Tuition: $8,500
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 10:1
3. University of Houston-Clear Lake
The University of Houston-Clear Lake is a four-year state university and one of four schools that make up the University of Houston System. Founded in 1971, the school enrolls nearly 9,000 undergraduate and graduate students each year. Those seeking a high-value paralegal studies degree can pursue an affordable Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies and explore various areas of law to obtain employment as a paralegal professional. The curriculum focuses on research, writing, communication, and critical reasoning and analysis as students develop valuable skills in three core areas: the critical role of trial by jury, dispute resolution, and the appellate process; legal writing, research, and critical thinking skills; and the legal principles that underpin procedural and substantive areas of law. At UHCL, students also have opportunities to apply what they have learned in the classroom to real-world situations by joining the Legal Studies Association, helping to plan and implement the school’s annual Constitutional Law Day Program, participating in the national competition orchestrated by the American Mock Trial Association, or attending seminars for credit that are sponsored by the State Bar of Texas.
Legal Studies B.S.
In-State Tuition: $7,002
Out-of-State Tuition: $19,954
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 15:1
2. Mississippi University for Women
Students seeking an affordable university for a paralegal studies degree may consider attending Mississippi University for Women, a coeducational public institution of higher education located in Columbus, Mississippi. Although the school was founded as a women-only institution, it admitted its first male students in 1982, and men currently make up around 20 percent of the MUW student body. Through the College of Business & Professional Studies, students may pursue a comprehensive, four-year, low-cost Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts in Legal Studies degree that is one of only two in the state approved by the American Bar Association. This inexpensive degree program is designed students with not only a solid foundation in critical legal concepts but also the analytical skills they need to perform as effective members of a legal team. Outside of the classroom, students may participate in Lambda Epsilon Chi, a national honorary fraternity for paralegals, or Bench & Gavel, a club open to all students pursuing a degree in legal studies.
Bachelor of Arts in Legal Studies
Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies
In-State Tuition: $6,940
Out-of-State Tuition: $6,940
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 14:1
1. Lewis-Clark State College
Topping our list of the best affordable colleges for a paralegal studies degree, Lewis-Clark State College is a public college located in Lewiston, Idaho. Founded in 1893, LCSC confers more than 130 low-cost degree programs and is most known for its technical, nursing, education, social work, and criminal justice programs. However, it also offers a top-ranked paralegal studies degree at both the associate and bachelor’s levels. Specifically, the cheap Bachelor of Applied Science in Paralegal program requires 50 credits from the Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal program as well as 37 credits in general education coursework and 33 credits of approved upper-division coursework for a total of 120 credits of study. Topics covered at the bachelor’s level include tort law, family law, business organizations, advanced civil litigation, real estate law and procedures, and wills, estates, and trusts. Students select an additional 10 upper-division credits to round out the program and participate in an internship in law before earning their degree.
In-State Tuition: $6,618
Out-of-State Tuition: $19,236
Student-to-Faculty Ratio: 13:1
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are the Career Options for a Bachelor’s in Paralegal Studies Degree?
According to U.S. News & World Report, becoming a legal assistant or paralegal does not require a strict educational requirement. In fact, many paralegals seek employment with simply a high school diploma. While an associate degree in paralegal studies is typically the minimum education requested by most employers, those who have earned a Bachelor’s in Paralegal Studies may be considered for better positions, additional responsibilities, and higher salaries. Career options for students with a Bachelor’s in Paralegal Studies degree include:
- Legal Assistants
- Administrative Assistants
- Legal Secretaries
- Information Clerks
- Court Reporters
- Claims Adjusters
- Title Examiners
- Law Clerks
As the amount of legal work increases, lawyers and attorneys are relying on paralegals for certain tasks previously reserved for legal secretaries and entry-level lawyers in an effort to reduce costs. Tasks that a paralegal may be expected to perform include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Real estate transactions
- Exhibit research
- Legal research
- Case management
- Client interviews
- Contract preparation
- Fact evaluation and investigation
What is the Salary Potential for a Paralegal Studies Degree?
When considering the salary potential for a graduate with a paralegal studies degree, keep in mind that earning potential will depend on several factors such as the city and state of employment, the size of the employer, certification level, and level of education. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the annual median payfor paralegals and legal assistants was $50,940 per year, or $24.49 per hour, as of May 2018, the most recent data available. The median wage is the figure at which half of the paralegals in the country earned less than that amount and half earned more. The lowest 10 percent of paralegals reported earnings of less than $31,400, while the highest 10 percent brought in more than $82,050.
In addition, the median annual wages for legal assistants and paralegals in the top industries in which they were employed were as follows:
- Federal government: $67,340
- Finance and insurance: $62,020
- Local government, excluding hospitals and education: $50,400
- Legal services: $48,880
- State government, excluding hospitals and education: $46,970
The BLS also reports that employment of legal assistants and paralegals is expected to increase 15 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations. This increase may be attributed to the fact that employers looking to increase the efficiency of their services and reduce costs may turn to paralegals who can take on a “hybrid role.” In other words, paralegals can provide not only traditional paralegal duties but also tasks previously assigned to legal support workers such as legal secretaries. Paralegals are also a less costly alternative to entry-level lawyers, which ultimately helps law firms who are attempting to reduce billing costs for clients who are pushing for more affordable legal services.
What Courses Will You Take in a Bachelor’s in Paralegal Studies Degree Program?
While the specific curriculum provided by each school will vary, most programs consist of 120 credits of study, and prospective students should expect to gain a strong foundation in legal research and writing as well as an understanding of various practice areas of law. Concentrations may also be available in areas such as corporate law, labor law, healthcare law, criminal law. Sample courses that may be offered in a Bachelor’s in Paralegal Studies degree program include:
- Law Office Technology
- Introduction to the Legal System and Law
- Criminal Law and Procedures
- Civil Law and Procedures
- Legal Ethics and Responsibilities
- American Politics
- Family Law, Probate, and Tort
- Business Law
- Legal Research and Legal Writing
- Wills and Estates
Depending on the coursework and the school’s requirements, most students can complete their Bachelor’s in Paralegal Studies within three to four years. Keep in mind that practicum experiences and internships may extend the length of time to completion. Students who are considering a Bachelor’s in Paralegal Studies may wish to pursue a program accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA), the top organization for American lawyers and paralegals.
Some programs may pave the way for paralegals to become certified through one of three nationally recognized paralegal professional organizations: the Association for Legal Professionals (NALS), the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA). As you begin to research affordable paralegal studies degrees, we hope that our list helps you to narrow down your options and select the school that best meets your needs and professional goals.
This concludes our ranking of the top 15 best affordable paralegal studies degrees (bachelor’s) 2019.
Other Rankings of Interest: