A $55 million contribution to the Stanford University School of Medicine made by John Arrillaga, a leading Bay Area businessman, philanthropist, and Stanford University alumnus, will help eliminate medical school debt for incoming students qualifying for financial aid. Arrillaga was the recipient of financial aid himself as a student-athlete at Stanford in the late 1950s. He has made exceptional donations previously to undergrad scholarship programs, capital projects, and athletics at Stanford.
The Stanford School of Medicine website reports that Arrillaga’s contribution will be matched by the school through charitable donations and greater institutional support.
Stanford Med: On a mission to eliminate student debt
Stanford expects that over the next 10 years, a total of $90 million in new scholarships will help to eliminate student debt.
Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne called the gift “life-changing”: “We are very grateful to John for this generous donation, which will not only help encourage the most talented and promising students to pursue a Stanford medical school education, but ultimately enable then to choose a career path that is most meaningful to them.”
Stanford hopes that by allowing medical students to graduate debt-free, they will choose less lucrative specialties and consider pursuing careers in teaching and research.
Stanford University Medical School has been working hard at helping keep medical school debt at a minimum and has several long-standing debt-alleviation programs. Thanks to these programs, the class of 2019 graduated with a median student debt of slightly more than $89,000, which is considerably less than the median national debt of $200,000 reported for the same year by the Association of American Medical Colleges.
Understanding what tuition-free and debt-free mean to students
Stanford determines financial need as the total cost of attending medical school, including tuition and living expenses, minus help given by the student’s family. Arrillaga’s gift will double the amount of help the university can give to incoming students. This will ensure that qualified students will no longer have to borrow money to attend Stanford. More than two-thirds of the students qualified for financial aid in the last academic year. The university plans to be able to expand help to all lower- and middle-income students thanks to Arrillaga’s gift and the matching funds.
Several medical schools have started programs for tuition-free medical education for all students, regardless of need. Stanford is looking at a more holistic method that concentrates funding on students with proven need.
According to Lloyd Minor, MD, the Carl and Elizabeth Neumann Dean of the Stanford University School of Medicine, “[B]ecause we live in an area with such a high overall cost of living, we appreciate that tuition-free does not necessarily mean debt-free. Merely addressing tuition costs is not sufficient, as students must often take out large loans to cover their room, board and other living expenses. With this extraordinary gift, we are able to structure a program that is inclusive of an individual student’s total need.”
The enhanced financial aid packages have already impacted Stanford’s fall 2019 class, which was one of the most diverse in the school’s history. Approximately 23 of the 90 students in the class are from groups traditionally underrepresented in medicine. The percent of minority students attending Stanford School of Medicine has increased over the last 5 years – from 17% in 2014 to nearly 25% this year.
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