NYU’s medical school tuition experiment
NYU tuition gift a boon for diversity, family docs
Current doctors debate the merit of giving students a free ride
New York University School of Medicine recently announced it is awarding full tuition scholarships to all of its current and future M.D. candidates.
NYU is certainly at the forefront of a cultural change in how we deliver health care, and for the better. The number of underrepresented minorities and people from a lower socioeconomic status enrolled in such schools will surely increase because of the change. And more doctors might choose to go into, instead of shying away from, lower paying and underfilled specialties such as internal or family medicine or pediatrics.
I’m proud to say I studied at the first major American medical school to offer full tuition for all of its students.
The NYU scholarships will be paid for by an endowment consisting of philanthropic donations, many from former graduates. I was fortunate to benefit from such a fund called the Brienza Scholarship, but this covered only a small fraction of my tuition.
Eighty-six percent of medical graduates like me are in debt. I envision that it will be years before many graduates, especially recent ones with increasingly higher levels of debt, will have sufficient funds or desire to contribute while still repaying medical school bills. As a result of this decision, I would expect an increase in voluntary donations from proud and appreciative graduates from any medical school that doesn’t charge tuition.
Most medical students can already be behind $228,000 in lifetime earnings by graduation, compared with former undergraduate classmates who entered the workforce right away.
The relatively low salary of a resident physician, usually $50,000 to $60,000 per year, intensifies the problem of debt repayment, because many loans begin accruing interest after grace periods that are usually shorter than the length of residency. These factors could lead to pushing other life matters into the future.
Perhaps the most precious currency expended on medical school (and residency) is time itself. Traditionally, it will take at least seven years to become a board-eligible physician after college, with many hours spent studying or in the hospital. The hours are necessary to acquire the training to become a competent physician. But this precious time is most commonly spent during the third and fourth decades of life, arguably the most productive period not just professionally but also personally.
NYU, among other medical schools, has reduced its curriculum from four to three years for some students. This is not as well publicized as the tuition gift, but looking to the future, it could be just as important to current and future medical students.