Personal Finance

Law schools with the highest return on investment

Best value law schools to consider

The average law school graduate has more than $140,000 in student loan debt by the time they earn their degree. So picking a program that offers a high salary and a good return on investment is critical.

Online lender SoFi, a CNBC Disruptor, rated law schools based on verified salary and debt from more than 60,000 people who applied to refinance their student loans with the company from 2014 to 2016.

While elite schools still dominate SoFi's rankings with high average salaries, lesser-known programs, such as Brigham Young University, offered graduates a better value when you consider salary-to-debt ratios.

Graduates of the top three law schools on SoFi's highest salary list — Columbia University, Cornell University and New York University — all earn starting salaries above $175,000. The median annual wage for lawyers was $115,820, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. (See the list below.)

Trying to find the best bang for your buck, SoFi searched for schools that provided good value by comparing the average salary data to the average debt load.

Harvard and Yale were top contenders on the list, but so were less prestigious law schools such as the University of Houston and the University of Georgia. (See list below.)

Law school can come with a hefty debt load. Graduates with good credit and strong job prospects can usually refinance their loans to a lower rate, savings tens of thousands of dollars over the life of their loans.

However, student loan refinancing is not for everyone. When you refinance your federal student loans with a private lender, you lose some benefits, such as income-based repayment plans and public service loan forgiveness.

After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania law school (No. 9 on Sofi's highest salary list with more than $250,000 in debt, Josh Garber refinanced $80,000 of his student loans with SoFi and wished he had access to an income-based repayment plan. (SoFi and other private lenders do allow borrowers to pause their payments for up to 12 months if they lose their jobs.)

"One of my worst regrets is refinancing with a company like SoFi, because the federal government has a thing such as income-based repayment," Garber told earlier this month.

SoFi issued this statement in response to CNBC's earlier request for comment: "Student loan refinancing through SoFi puts money back in people's pockets. On average, our members save $22,359 by refinancing their student loans with us over the life of their loan. If a member loses their job, we can temporarily pause loan payments up to 12 months, and also provide help in a job search."