School officials worry that rising tuition and soaring loan balances are pushing new doctors into high-paying fields and contributing to a shortage of researchers and primary care physicians.
Every student at the New York University School of Medicine is getting a full ride.
Robert Grossman, dean of the NYU School of Medicine, said the decision is an attempt to tackle debt burden on aspiring physicians. The fund will only cover tuition, so students are still responsible for room and boarding costs, and health insurance. Given that graduating medical students from underrepresented minority groups are 2.5 times more likely than white students to work with underserved populations, the increase in diversity that tuition-free medical school might engender has profound implications for reducing health disparities in this country. Among those with debt, the average student owed almost $191,000, which rises to $202,000 among private medical school graduates.
"This is going to be a huge game-changer for us, for our students and for our patients", Dr. Rafael Rivera, NYU's associate dean for admission and financial aid", told The Journal. So far NYU has raised $450 million. Those range from around $27,000 to $29,000 per year, according to the medical school.
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This isn't the first time that a medical school has tried to help the physician shortage - but according to NYU it is the first time that a "Top 10" USA medical school has offered free tuition.
Tuition had been set at about $55,000 for the coming year. NYU now has 442 medical students and each incoming class has about 100 students.
In December, Columbia University received a $250 million gift from Dr. Roy Vagelos and Diana Vagelos, of which $150 million created an endowment that will cover the tuition for medical students who are deemed to have financial need at the renamed Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. "It takes a tremendous effort to pull something like this off and it's pretty impressive", she said.
About 93 first-year students will receive full-year scholarships, on top of 350 students who are already in the midst of their medical program, the publication said. "Medical school is still a great investment", she said.