There’s a trend developing of medical schools offering free tuition to a number of classes of new students. This time, it’s Pasadena, CA’s Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine and the NYU-Long Island School of Medicine.
Kaiser Permanente announced this month it will waive tuition for all four years for the school’s first five classes of students, including the 48 matriculants who will begin their studies in the summer of 2020. And the new NYU-Long Island also recently announced it will assume the $55,000 to $60,000 cost for each student per year, thanks to fundraising and endowments. It will begin recruiting primary care applicants from across the nation next month.
Such moves are an effort on the part of the medical education community to help alleviate fears of a looming shortfall of trained physicians. Federal government estimates reveal that the US needs upward of 13,800 more primary care physicians just to meet current demand. By 2030, the Association of American Medical Colleges predicts the shortage could hit 121,300 physicians.
By granting free tuition, these schools are directly addressing the top barrier for many medical career hopefuls. The Medscape Residents Salary and Debt Report for 2018 found that more than a quarter of medical residents report having between $200,000 and $300,000 in medical school debt. Of course, the potential payoff is lucrative. The lowest-earning doctors, such as pediatricians and family doctors, enjoy average annual salaries of $187,540 and $208,560, respectively. That’s more than triple the median US household income.
Though relatively new and controversial in some circles, waiving medical school tuition has proven a game-changer for students who come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Such is the case at the University of California, Riverside, where such matriculants make up 53 percent the student body. Research shows doctors from underserved communities are more likely to practice in places similar to where they grew up. That’s critical because the coming physician shortage undoubtedly will affect these communities more significantly than wealthier areas.
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