First realize any information you receive on this board or others is coming from anonymous internet posters and should be taken with a grain of salt, my post included.
With that said I think any 0L needs to consider the following factors (1) Location; (2) Cost; (3) Personal Feelings about the school (4) Understanding the reality of legal education; and last (5) Employment stats/U.S. News Rankings.
Each factor is analyzed to your situation below. 1) Location
It sounds like you have it narrowed down to the state, which is great. Many 0L's are looking at schools all over the country, but knowing Kentucky is the place for you is a big step in the right direction.
However, between Highland Heights, Lexington, and Louisville are different cities and no matter what school you attend you will be living in that City for three years. Additionally, if you want to work in Lexington or Louisville you will be able to intern during law school at Lousiville firms if you attend Louisville. A 70 mile drive for an internship in Lexington would be tough.
If you prefer any of the three cities attending law school there might be the best bet. Odds are you will find employment near your law school and more importantly you are going to spend three years of the prime of your life around that campus. 2) CostNorthern Kentucky
NKU offers in state tuition 15k per year and an 8k scholarship means 7k per year.
In-State 15k per year - 8k scholarship=7k per year x 3 = 21,00.
10K living costs on campus x 3= 30,000
16k per year off campus x 3= 48,000
Law school is three years so total
NKU Total Cost
51,000 on campus
69,000 of campus. Kentucky
18k per year in state x 3= 54,000
15k per year x 3= 45,000
Total Cost = 89,000. Louisville
In-State tuition 16k x 3= 48,000
Living costs 18,000 x 3 = 54,000
Louisville Total Costs:
92,000Scholarship Conditions & Negotiation:
For NKU you need to pay attention to the scholarship conditions if any. Many schools require a 3.0 GPA, which was likely easy to get in undergrad, but most schools only allow 35% of their first year class to have a 3.0 GPA. This means there is a 65% chance you will not keep your scholarship for years 2 & 3. This N.Y. Times article explains the situation far better than I can. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/01/business/law-school-grants.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
Also do not be afraid to negotiate for scholarship money from Kentucky or Louisville. These schools want you to attend and they might take 5k off if you ask and say I am really considering Kentucky and vice versa.
Bottom line ask detailed questions about the scholarship at NKU and ask for more money from them and the other schools. You have all the leverage until you enroll in the school, but you are an over qualified student, which is the scholarship is being offered and don't be afraid to negotiate for more.
(3) Personal Feelings about School:
This is very important each school has a culture and feel to it. When I was a 0L I visited many schools some I hated others I loved, but those are my personal feelings. You may very well hate what I loved and vice versa. Therefore, it is very important you visit the schools talk to professors, admins, students, walk around campus and see what school gives you a good gut feeling. That feeling should be listened to it is $100,000 of your money, three years of your life, your legal career, and nobody knows better what works for you better than you.
(4) Reality of Legal Education
It is important to understand at any of these schools you will learn the same exact thing. Your first year will be Torts, Contracts, Property, and Civil Procedure. In these courses you will read Supreme Court Cases and they do not write separate opinions for different schools. At the end of the day the law is the law.
(5) U.S. News and Stats
If all else fails look at the magazine and employment stats, but remember that U.S. News is a for-profit, unregulated, magazine offering an opinion. They rank more than law schools and Albuquerque, New Mexico is the best place to live according to U.S. News. http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/slideshows/best-places-to-live
. I imagine you are not going to move to New Mexico based on this ranking.
Use the same logic when choosing your law school. A magazine saying something doesn't make it true.
As for the employment stats no school guarantees you a job and more importantly the actual accounting of graduates is terrible. After you get through law school, pass the bar, and are working 50-70 hours a week you are not going to say oh yea I am going to call up career services, fill out a detailed form, give them all my salary information etc, because you just have free time. There is no consequence to not responding to these surveys.
An additional point regarding employment stats is that NKU has a large part time program nearly half the students are part-time. Louisville and Kentucky do not have part-time programs. The typical part-time law student already has a job, interacts rarely with the school, and often does not find a "legal related" position, because they are not looking for one.
Bottom line each student has their own hugely individual story and on top of that if you finish in the bottom 10% at NKU you will struggle if your Valedictorian you will not. Essentially, whether you succeed in the legal field will have a lot more to do with you than the school you attend.
However, you environment, personal feelings about the school, and cost are going to make differences in your life and ability to succeed. Kentucky being ranked 87th will not matter in the long run.
Congrats on your law school acceptances it is great to have options. There is no, "right' answer and you need to balance all the factors of location, cost, and personal feelings about the school. Do not get to wrapped up in stats they are b.s. particularly when related to something as individualized as student success. Not every student wants the same thing. There will be those that want to help the homeless and others that want to make money at all costs. Nothing wrong either way, but you can measure those graduates the same way they are entirely different people.
Any of these schools will provide you with a great education and give you a ticket to a bar exam anywhere in the Country. Whether you pass the bar exam and succeed will be up to you.
Good luck on your decision and go visit these schools, talk to alumni, students etc. Remember anything on anonymous internet poster boards should be taken with a grain of salt. For all you know I am a crackhead in a public library or a Biglaw partner drunkenly rambling on an internet board.
To get some real answers and insight you need to talk to real people about each school.