In a new scholarship initiative, medical students will be able to attend New York University School of Medicine tuition free, regardless of need or merit. The announcement from the university is good news for new and current student in NYU’s MD degree program, with yearly tuition costs covered by the new full-tuition scholarship topping $55,000.
NYU is the only top 10-ranked medical school in the nation to make such a move, according to the university.
"Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of our trustees, alumni, and friends, our hope—and expectation—is that by making medical school accessible to a broader range of applicants, we will be a catalyst for transforming medical education nationwide,” Kenneth G. Langone, chair of the board of trustees of NYU Langone Health, said in a statement.
The news was delivered as a “surprise ending” to NYU’s White Coat Ceremony, where each first-year medical students are presented with a white lab coat to mark the start of their medical education and training.
The scholarships will likely significantly impact NYU medical students at a time when the national student debt levels have reached new records. In 2018, total national student debt was estimated at $1.5 trillion, according to recent data from the Federal Reserve System.
The amount of student debt medical students incur is also pushing more students to strive for higher-paying specialties, “drawing talent away from less lucrative fields like primary care, pediatrics and obstetrics and gynecology,” according to NYU School of Medicine. The free tuition could level the playing field and bring more interest back into other specialties, particularly as the need for healthcare professionals continues to rise. Free school may also help bring in more student candidates who had never considered a healthcare career in the first place as a result of the high cost associated with higher education, diversifying the field.
In 2017, 75 percent of all doctors in the U.S. graduated with debt, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges, with the median cost of private medical school landing at just under $60,000. The median current debt of a graduating student is more than $200,000. About one in five doctors graduating from a private school have more than $300,000 in educational debt.
“Tuition-free medical education goes beyond the merit and financial scholarships, and debt cancellations that other academic centers have traditionally favored,” Rafael Rivera, MD, MBA, associate dean for admissions and financial aid, said in a statement. “More importantly, it addresses both physician shortages and diversity.”
NYU has worked to address the high cost problem for students over the past few years, including implementing an accelerated three-year curriculum in 2013 along with a select group of other U.S. medical schools. However, it did not fully address the tuition issue. More than 2,500 supporters made the initiative possible, according to NYU.
“This tuition-free initiative is the next big milestone in NYU School of Medicine’s effort to transform medical education,” Steven B. Abramson, MD, senior vice dean for education, faculty, and academic affairs, said in a statement. “The model of medical education needs to address changing scientific, social, and economic circumstances as well as dramatic changes in the healthcare delivery system.