Paul L. Caron

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Washington University Goes Tuition-Free For 50% Of Its Medical Students

Wash UFollowing up on my previous posts:

Inside Higher Ed, Free-Tuition Idea Spreads in Med Schools:

Last summer New York University's medical school, where the sticker price on tuition was more than $55,000 a year, announced that all current and new students would henceforth receive full-tuition scholarships.

One question raised by the move was whether top medical schools would match NYU's new policy.

On Tuesday, another leading medical school — at Washington University in St. Louis — announced that it was going to spend $100 million so that more than half of its new students from now on will not pay tuition. Currently, only about 20 of the students in an M.D. class of 120 receive full-tuition scholarships. Those not receiving full scholarships in the future will be able to receive partial scholarships. (Under a tuition plan that assures students the same rates for four years, Wash U currently charges $65,044 a year for tuition, with total costs of more than $85,000.)

The awards will be made both on the basis of financial need and measures of academic merit.

Washington University officials said that they have been making progress at limiting student debt, but that efforts to date have not been enough. The average debt of Washington University School of Medicine graduates over the past five years has been $99,088, compared to a national median of $166,239. Many have argued that high debt levels — coupled with relatively low pay new M.D.s receive during their residencies — discourage new doctors from jobs in which they may treat the disadvantaged or work in rural or other locations lacking enough medical care.

According to statistics from the Association of American Medical Colleges, three-quarters of the Class of 2018 had debt. Among those who had borrowed, median indebtedness rose 4 percent, to $200,000. About half of students, 51 percent, borrowed $200,000 or more -- and 46 percent planned to enter a loan forgiveness or repayment program. ...

About 20 percent of students at the David Geffen School of Medicine of the University of California, Los Angeles, are awarded scholarships that cover all expenses — tuition, room and board, books and supplies, and more. The scholarships are awarded based on measures of academic merit, not financial need.

When NYU announced its plans last year, some critics questioned whether all medical students needed the same levels of help. An essay in Slate called the move "at best, a well-intentioned waste — an expensive, unnecessary subsidy for elite medical grads who already stand to make a killing one day as anesthesiologists and orthopedic surgeons."

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Meanwhile Washington University's undergrad division has had the lowest percentage of Pell Grant recipients of any highly selective college or university in the country. If I remember the Raj Chetty data correctly, I believe their undergrad is in the top 3 for highest median family income, too; I think it's somewhere around $275k. Perhaps being second in on free med school (for some) is a way of saving face.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Apr 18, 2019 5:58:09 PM

Remind me why it's admirable to give budding physicians--many of whom will make huge incomes as specialists--a free ride? Even the lowest-paid of physicians make close to $200,000/year on average, plus the intangible compensation of the prestige of being a doctor. Many will make half a million or more a year.

Posted by: Jason Yackee | Apr 19, 2019 5:19:10 AM


By that logic we should get rid of IBR plans and PSLF and GradPLUS for law students, since *peer-reviewed* research shows that [a small subset from certain years] are all financially successful. That MD students can borrow >$400k for the cost of their education, to say nothing of the interest lumped on it during their years and years of residency/fellowships/etc, is such a meaningless trifle to them, after all! The notion of paying $5,000 a month after taxes in student loans couldn't possibly deter applicants OR make them all stampede to the most lucrative specialties to the detriment of the public!

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Apr 19, 2019 7:38:58 PM