Thanks for the response, brother.
I'm not dead set on the T-14 or anything as I don't really care that much for prestige. I do care where I want to practice and the practice area (public sector) which is why the T-14 plus regional schools offer me the most options.
Live in NC and would like to practice in NC, GA, or TX. Almost every school I am applying to will have tuition paid for as I don't have any really no aspirations on having a six figure salary or selling my soul to big law.
The key phrase here is "almost every school ... will have tuition paid for[.]" Given that I assume you are early in the admissions process, and that you haven't received admissions + financial offers yet, you must be discussing some other package, such as aid to military vets, that I am less than familiar with. Good for you!
MaintainFL has excellent advice. As you want to practice in the public sector, you should make sure that your total cost of attendance is zero (or close to it). Do not depend on loan forgiveness programs for working in the public sector- allow me to explain.
At this point, you have the same vague desires that most people have when they start law school, "I want to work in M&A." "I want to work in the public sector and do good." "I want to work in international law." There's nothing wrong with that- most applicants have that feeling, and, by far, the three most common motivations are:
1. I want to make money.
2. I don't know what to do with my life after undergrad.
3. I want to help people/do good/work in the public sector.
Here's the thing- the practice of law is very different than the ideals, and you might end up with very different ideas as to what you find appealing after you encounter actual practice during your first two years in law school, during summer jobs, and in clinics. The best way to make sure you keep your options open are to graduate law school with little to no debt.
With that in mind, understand the following-
1. T14 schools are national. Harvard, Yale, etc.? You can pretty much practice in any part of the country that you want to begin with. You will get the interview. However, when people discuss this, they are usually talking about BigLaw or prestigious public sector. They aren't discussing local PD in Montana.
2. Other schools in from 14-100, roughly, or state/regional schools. Your degree and connections will help you in the state, and perhaps the region. But if you want to practice far outside of it, you need to make your own connections and do really well.
3. Past the top 100, you start looking at state/local schools. Schools that place in the state, or the locality (city) of the school.
In law, geography matters. The state that you first practice in has a very good chance to be the state that you always practice in. Bar admissions are not portable. This isn't a hard and fast rule; I've practiced in more than one state. But you should pay attention to it.