Face Off: NYU full-tuition scholarships expand valuable opportunities for medical students

During New York University’s annual White Coat Ceremony, NYU officials surprised incoming medical students by announcing that the university would offer full-tuition scholarships to all students and reimburse those who are already enrolled in the medical degree program.

In piloting this new approach to tuition, NYU is expanding the available opportunities for medical school students and it is an initiative that should be adopted by other universities around the world. 

The annual tuition at NYU’s School of Medicine is currently $55,018, not including the additional $27,000 for room and board. NYU’s medical school is one of the most prestigious in the nation and it is also one of the most expensive. 

Public medical schools charged an average of $34,699 per year for in-state tuition during the 2017-2018 school year, according to U.S. News and World Report. In contrast, private schools charged a considerably higher amount of $54,877 for the same academic year.

Consequently, about 62 percent of NYU’s School of Medicine graduates leave with some debt; the average debt incurred by members of the class of 2017 was $184,000, according to The New York Times.

Dean of NYU School of Medicine Dr. Robert Grossman hopes that the shift will make NYU’s medical school more “inclusive for dedicated students” who are unsure about medical school because of the cost, according to Forbes.

“This decision recognizes a moral imperative that must be addressed, as institutions place an increasing debt burden on young people who aspire to become physicians,” Grossman said. 

Not only will this tuition-free initiative allow students to leave school debt free, it will also encourage students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds to apply to the medical degree program, which could result in a more diverse student body. 

Roughly six percent of medical students were black and five percent were Hispanic in 2017, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Free tuition will vary the population of medical school classrooms by widening the spectrum and making college affordable to all.

The amount of student debt a medical school graduate leaves with may additionally affect what field they choose to pursue. Instead of choosing a specialty they are passionate about, they may focus their attention on a more profitable specialty to pay back student loans. 

Adversaries of this decision may argue that there is no guarantee that recent graduates of medical school will choose less lucrative specialties. The possibility remains that students will still opt for higher paying specialties, despite no longer having loans to pay off.   

Free tuition scholarships, however, intend to increase the number of primary care physicians by incentivizing students to move into more general fields rather than specialized ones such as dermatology or cardiology.

Many undergraduate students choose lower-ranked schools over top-ranked schools because of their sticker price. Premier institutions like NYU have offered undergraduates the ability to choose a top-ranked school without worrying about tuition prices. 

NYU’s efforts to eliminate tuition for medical school students is one step toward transforming the lives of physicians after graduation. Making medical school an opportunity for all prospective NYU students will offer relief to students after graduating, leading to profound effects on medicine. 

Hopefully, NYU’s initiative will encourage other private medical schools to prioritize scholarships over loans in the future.

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