NYU’s Free Tuition Puts Med School Within Reach for More Students

Students walk outside New York University building on March 22, 2016. CribbVisuals/Getty Images

Becoming a doctor requires hard work, good grades and high test scores. But at New York University, it no longer requires tuition that’s out of reach for many students.

The school in New York, N.Y., has announced that, effective immediately, it will waive tuition — currently $55,018 — for all students regardless of need. The dean, Dr. Robert Grossman, said in a statement that he hopes other academic medical centers will follow suit.

The intent is to increase diversity and give students the financial freedom to pursue careers in primary care, pediatrics and obstetrics and gynecology — specialties that aren’t among the highest-paying, the university said.

“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, who also is CEO of NYU Langone Health, said in a news release.

The largesse was made possible through donations, including $100 million from  Kenneth Langone, according to the Wall Street Journal. He’s a billionaire businessman and philanthropist for whom NYU Langone Health is named. More than $400 million of the $650 million needed has already been raised, according to the newspaper.

Students will still have to pay for living expenses, estimated at $29,000 per year, the Wall Street Journal reports.

According to the American Association of Medical Colleges, three-quarters of medical students graduate with debt. The average amount is more than $190,000, but 48 percent leave school with a debt greater than $200,000, the association found.

The median cost of one year at a public medical school is $36,937, placing the career out of reach for many Americans. At a private school, it’s even more: $59,605, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

This spring, Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons said it would become the first medical school in the country to replace loans with scholarships for all students who qualify for student aid. The 20 percent of students with the greatest need will get a free ride starting this school year, the college said.

The scholarship fund will be supported by an endowment that was established by Dr. P. Roy Vagelos and Diana Vagelos, for whom the 250-year-old medical school was renamed last December. The couple has committed more than $300 million to Columbia, $150 million of which was directed toward the scholarship fund endowment.

A decade ago, the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve  began paying full tuition for all students, limited to 32 per class. The program is geared toward training what the college calls physician investigators, who teach and do research.

Susan Jacobson is an editor at The Penny Hoarder.

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