Paul L. Caron

Monday, September 23, 2019

Cornell Medical School Raises $150m To Fund Full-Ride Scholarships (Tuition, Housing, Food, Books) For Entering Students Who Qualify For Financial Aid (50% Of Class); $50m More Needed To Fully Fund Program

Following up on my previous posts (links below):  New York Times, Cornell’s Medical School Offers Full Rides in Battle Over Student Debt:

Cornell MedAll costs — tuition, books, housing and food — will be covered for those who qualify for aid, adding Cornell to a growing list of institutions trying to ease the way for doctors-to-be.

Doctors can be among the highest-earning professionals in the country, but they are also among those saddled with the most student loans. The average medical student who graduates with debt owes $200,000, with several years of modest pay ahead as a resident or fellow, according to data from the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Concerned that young doctors were being driven by financial pressures to become specialists rather than practice pediatrics or family medicine, some prominent universities have begun using major gifts from donors to relieve students from having to borrow to pay tuition.

On Monday, Cornell University went even further. Its medical school, Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City, announced that all students who qualify for financial aid will get a full ride: All costs will be covered by scholarships, including tuition, room and board, books and other educational expenses. ...

Doctors as a group are hardly economically disadvantaged. They are more likely to be in the top 1 percent of the nation’s earners than members of any other profession. Those who enter the most lucrative specializations, especially, stand a good chance of being able to pay off their student debts with less difficulty than most other Americans, even though they borrow so much.

Still, the announcement on Monday added Weill-Cornell to a growing list of prominent medical schools that have recently rolled out generous financial aid programs to ease the way for future doctors. ...

Of Weill Cornell’s 373 students, 52 percent qualify for need-based aid. A single year at the school — which sits in one of America’s most expensive ZIP codes, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan — costs more than $90,000, according to Weill Cornell. With need-based grants for the last academic year averaging about $38,000, students often relied on federal loans to bridge the difference. The average debt for a graduate of the program this year was $156,851. ...

The program covers all eligible students going forward, but not retroactively, so the incoming class of first-year students stands to benefit the most. ...

Weill Cornell had a scholarship endowment of $150 million before it announced a new $160 million gift on Monday. The school needs about $50 million more in the coming years to ensure that the program continues in perpetuity, Dr. Choi said, adding that he felt “very confident” it would reach that number.

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:

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A great subsidy for the wealthy (in terms of human capital). Maybe we should also start a subsidy for projected first-round NBA draft picks.

Posted by: Rich | Sep 23, 2019 7:31:08 AM

I find this initiative so strange. The average primary care physician salary in the US is $223k/year. Average for specialities is $329k. In the state of New York, the #s are 213k and 298k. Self-employed physicians in New York make on average $383k. 70 percent of physicians in New York have a net worth of over $1,000,000. These are enormous salaries compared to the median American salary, and doctors tend to be much wealthier than the normal American. Why subsidize a graduate education for someone who is almost certainly going to be very rich because of the training they receive? It makes no sense to me.

Posted by: Jason Yackee | Sep 23, 2019 6:55:02 AM

This sounds progressive, but is it really? What it basically means is that a few wealthy doctors will be even wealthier. It does nothing to address structural inequality.

Posted by: Mike Livingston | Sep 23, 2019 4:12:58 AM