School works to reduce student debt through scholarships, loans

Tuition and fees at U.S. medical schools have risen dramatically in the past 20 years, and students nationwide are going into deeper debt to become physicians.


The School of Medicine is trying to reverse the trend and has taken a number of steps in recent years to reduce the debt of its students.

“We want to ensure that the School of Medicine is within reach of students from all segments of society,” says W. Edwin Dodson, M.D., associate vice chancellor and associate dean for admissions and for continuing medical education. “Reducing the debt of students also makes it more likely that students will choose specialties based on personal interest, not salaries.”

Previously, the medical school required students to borrow a certain amount of money before they could receive any scholarships. Three years ago, the medical school began offering need-based scholarships along with loans starting with the first dollar of need.

Need-based scholarships are determined by a careful evaluation of detailed financial information from the applicant and his or her parents. To give an example of the new policies, 2008-09 costs for a student’s first year of medical school are $61,222. These include tuition, room, board, books, transportation and other expenses. If the evaluation determines that the student and parents can contribute $31,222, the student’s financial aid will be $30,000. The medical school then funds $15,000 in scholarships and $15,000 in interest-free loans.

Three years ago, the medical school introduced a policy that capped the amount of debt a student could take on each year. Once students reach $20,000 in debt in a year, they receive the rest of the money they need in scholarships.

Additionally, the medical school’s tuition is stabilized, which means the tuition students are charged as first-year students is the tuition they will pay all four years.

“Ours is one of only a handful of schools that offers this benefit,” says Robert J. McCormack, assistant dean and director of financial aid.

Tuition at the medical school is comprehensive. It includes student health coverage, hospitalization and long-term disability insurance.

The medical school also offers 15-18 merit scholarships each year.

“Increasing debt burdens medical students and can have effects on the entire health-care system,” Dodson says. “We believe these steps to reduce student debt will benefit not only our future physicians but also the many patients they will take care of during their careers.”