Law week the Law School Transparency Clearinghouse went live, and within a few days professor Jonathan Adler (Case Western) posted on Volokh Conspiracy criticizing LST for publishing some dubious cost of living number. The most obvious error was listing CUNY's cost of living as $7,425. The bums in Queens can't even get by on that.
The error in LST's numbers was a result in a problem with the programming that pulled information from the US News law school profiles. It failed to grab the additional $8,806 CUNY listed for miscellaneous expenses. Professor Adler also criticized LST for using the US News numbers rather than going to every law school website and taking the information from their student expense budgets. Within a few hours of learning of the discrepancies, the three unpaid volunteers at LST did in fact do this, and have updated the cost numbers.
But, back to CUNY, the numbers still seem a bit off. CUNY reported to US News $7,425 as the cost for "room and board" and $8,806 for misc expenses, giving a total cost of living of $16,231. This is for a 9 month period, not the whole year, but it still seems quite low. $825 a month for room and board? No way.
Looking at the budget published on the CUNY website, no way indeed. $7,425 is the figure shown just for housing, meaning they supplied the wrong room and board figure to US News, and US News failed to notice that the number was way too low (board got folded into the misc expenses). The total for room and board is $11,520.30, with CUNY listing its total cost of living as $17,943. That's a difference of $1,710 from the total listed in US News. What gives?
On the US News profile, CUNY answered "N/A" to the cost for books, while listing the cost of books on its own budget as $1,710. A reasonable person might read the US News profile and think that rather than books not being included, CUNY has simply folded them into the larger Misc. Expenses figure. If so, you're thinking CUNY is about $5000 cheaper to attend than it is.
To be safe, it would seem that you ought to always double check with the law school website. ...Except that even that doesn't work.
If you used the CUNY budget you'd get that $7,425 figure as your 9 month housing cost; $825 a month. Now, if you visit the CUNY housing page, you'll see that it recommends the Queens College Summit dorm. The cheapest room there is $1,106 a month, taking your 9 month housing cost up to $9,954.
Sure, it may be possible to find a room in Queens for $825 a month, but you'd think that CUNY would base its housing costs off the housing it actually provides.
So, don't rely on the US News cost of attendance numbers, and don't rely on the school's own student budget either.