When the new class of medical students at New York University’s school of medicine entered their white coat ceremony– where students receive their first official lab coat on their path to becoming a doctor– they didn’t expect to leave it with the weight of student debt off of their shoulders.
NYU officials announced at Thursday’s ceremony, however, that all current and future students enrolled in the MD degree program will receive full-tuition scholarships.
“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,” Doctor Robert Grossman, dean of NYU school of medicine and CEO of NYU Langone Health, said in a Thursday statement.
What will this mean for NYU grads? Of the 151 medical schools in the United States, is NYU the first in the country to offer full tuition to medical students? USA TODAY breaks it down:
How much does medical school cost?
According to U.S. News and World Report, public medical schools charged an average of $34,699 per year for in-state tuition during the 2017-2018 school year. The average private medical school charged $54,877 per year during the same time.
The current sticker price at NYU’s school of medicine is $55,018 per year, and students in medical schools typically take four years of classes.
In the top 100 medical schools in the country, as ranked by U.S. News and World Report, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Lubbock, Texas offered the least expensive medical education at $18,094 per year for Texas residents. Columbia University in New York City offered the most expensive medical education at $66,257 per year.
In total, 75 percent of medical students graduated with debt because of their degree, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). The average medical student at a public university graduated with $181,179 of debt. The average medical student at a private university graduated with $206,204 of debt.
How will this affect NYU’s medical school?
Grossman said he hopes the shift will make NYU’s medical school more inclusive for dedicated students unsure about medical school because of its cost.
“We believe that with our tuition-free initiative, we have taken a necessary, rational step that addresses a critical need to train the most talented physicians, unencumbered by crushing debt,” Grossman said in a statement. “We hope that many other academic medical centers will soon choose to join us on this path.”
Julie Fresne, the AAMC’s senior director of student financial services & debt management, agreed that the scholarship will grant opportunities to low-income students.
“It allows them to attract students from all across the spectrum,” Fresne said. “It importantly encourages students who might be discouraged by the prospect of taking on debt to apply.”
Fresne said multiple factors influence what kind of medicine a student chooses to practice after medical school, like personality fit and role models. However, she said some students feel pressure to to only pursue high-paying medical jobs because of their debt.
“There is a percentage of students who do rank debt in looking at their specialty choice,” Fresne said. “So something like the NYU scholarship will really help those students.”
Is NYU the only medical school to offer free tuition?
NYU is the only top-ten ranked medical program to offer free tuition, according to the school. However, other medical schools across the country have committed to helping students graduate debt-free.
In April, Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons announced that they would be the first medical school in the nation to replace student loans with scholarships for students who qualify for financial aid. Instead of offering student loans as a part of students’ financial aid packages, the university will replace that funding with scholarships from their endowment.
Columbia also announced that 20 percent of medical school students with the greatest financial need will receive full-tuition scholarships.
At the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine, which focuses on training physician scientists, all students have received full-tuition scholarships since 2008 regardless of financial need.
In the F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine, a federally funded medical school within the the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland, students are actually paid a salary during their time in medical school. As of the 2017-2018 school year, its students earn at least $60,000 per year for each year of medical school in return to committing to seven years of active duty in the armed forces after graduation. The armed forces also offer other paid medical school opportunities through the Health Professions Scholarship Program.
Fresne added that it is too soon to tell if other medical programs will follow in NYU’s footsteps in eliminating tuition, but it could be a trend for medical schools moving forward.
“It will be interesting to watch how other schools respond to NYU’s decision,” Fresne said.