According to an NYU press release, NYU School of Medicine will become the first top-tier U.S. medical school to offer full-tuition scholarships to all current and future MD program students. These scholarships are available regardless of need or merit. More than $450 million of the estimated $600 million it will need to finance the scholarship program has already been raised. Tuition payments already made for this year will be refunded, and student loans will be repaid by the school. NYU is offering these scholarships to address the mounting cost of medical school while drawing the brightest students from the pool of future doctors.
The announcement of the scholarships was made at the end of the White Coat Ceremony, during which each incoming med student is given a white lab coat, which indicates the beginning of their medical training.
Kenneth G. Langone, chair of the Board of Trustees of NYU Langone Health, says: “Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of our trustees, alumni, and friends, our hope – and expectation – is that by making medical school accessible to a broader range of applicants, we will be a catalyst for transforming medical education nationwide.”
This does not mean that NYU medical students will be getting a free ride. Most students will still have to pay for room and board and other living expenses which can total $29,000/year.
Robert I. Grossman, MD, the Saul J. Farber Dean of NYU School of Medicine and CEO of Langone Health, touched on the skyrocketing debt that med school students graduate with. He explains: “This decision recognizes a moral imperative that must be addressed, as institutions place an increasing debt burden on young people who aspire to become physicians.”
The AAMC states that in 2017, 75% of all doctors in the U.S. graduated with debt. This high level of debt is negatively affecting U.S. healthcare. Many graduates decide to pursue specialties where they will earn more money, thereby leading to a lack of primary care physicians, pediatricians, obstetricians, and gynecologists (who traditionally earn less than other specialties). Fearing graduating med school and having to repay over $200,000 in loans, many potential med school students decide against a medical career.
There are federal loan programs available for students pursuing these lower-paying specialties. Loan payments are linked to discretionary income. Depending on the geographic area where they work, their loan balances are forgiven after 10 or 25 years. Unfortunately, due to compound interest, the principal balance is minimally reduced.
“A population as diverse as ours is best served by doctors from all walks of life, we believe, and aspiring physicians and surgeons should not be prevented from pursuing a career in medicine because of the prospect of overwhelming financial debt,” stated Dr. Grossman. He also said that NYU has “taken a necessary, rational step that addresses a critical need to train the most talented physicians, unencumbered by crushing debt. We hope that many other academic medical centers will soon choose to join us on this path.”
This is not the first time NYU School of Medicine has made changes to improve medical education. In 2013, they became part of a small group of U.S. med schools that offered an accelerated three-year curriculum. This change enabled doctors to enter their field earlier, which made them more productive and decreased their debt.
Although this innovation decreased the debt level, it did not eliminate it. According to Steven B. Abramson, MD, Senior Vice Dean for Education, Faculty, and Academic Affairs: “This tuition-free initiative is the next big milestone in NYU School of Medicine’s effort to transform medical education. The model of medical education needs to address changing scientific, social, and economic circumstances as well as dramatic changes in the healthcare delivery system.”
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