Last month, we discovered how expensive it will be if your daughter or son harbors dreams of becoming a doctor:
If your son or daughter is expressing interest in some day earning a medical degree, Wall Street Physician, MD says it’s going to be very expensive. Costs are rising and so is the debt medical school graduates find themselves in:
The average medical student now graduates with over $192,000 in student loans, but with the cost of attendance for the most expensive private medical schools approaching $100,000, there are some physicians who are finishing residency with $300,000 or even $400,000 in student loans.
A week later, New York University announced that every one of its medical students will receive free tuition, regardless of their financial situation! Students will still be on the hook for their room and board and other living expenses — about $29,000 a year. Even so, NYU is “the ‘only top 10-ranked’ medical school in the U.S. to offer such a generous package,” according to James Doubek:
“I’m proud to announce that as of right now, every student that we admit to New York University School of Medicine comes tuition-free,” Kenneth G. Langone, chair of the board of trustees, said in a video announcement Thursday. “And this includes the incoming class and the upperclassmen as well that are here right now — no more tuition.”
“They walk out of here unencumbered, looking at a future where they can do what their passion tells them, which is to help people live better quality lives,” he added.
The program covers a yearly tuition of $55,018, NYU says.
With the bill now averaging about $125,000 for four years of tuition at a pubic medical school and $212,000 for a private school medical education in the U.S., Eli Cahan says NYU’s plan of free tuition will:
> Help relieve the debt burden on young physicians once they earn their medical degrees;
> Alleviate the expected shortage of 120,000 physicians in the U.S. by the end of the next decade;
> Increase the racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity of students who will eventually care for a diverse society of Americans;
> Increase the number of primary care physicians:
Debt accumulated during medical school influences decision-making about what specialty to choose. In the U.S., only 3 in 10 students choose to practice in the primary care specialties of internal medicine, family medicine, and pediatrics, which generally have lower salaries than specialties like cardiology or anesthesiology. That is partly propelled by the fact that nearly half of third- and fourth-year students say that their choice in medical specialty is influenced by projected income—or by debt burden.
Income is a particularly sensitive issue for those pursuing primary care. They incur expenses in excess of earnings for up to five years after residency (until the age of 33, on average). Yet by 2030, as the prevalence of chronic disease continues to skyrocket and the population of Americans over age 65 years increases by 50 percent, the primary care physician shortage may end up larger than that of every other specialty combined.
Easing physician “burnout” is also a key goal in waiving tuition for medical students. The authors of a new study of U.S. residency programs, published last week in JAMA, provide a useful definition of burnout in this context:
Burnout, a syndrome that is driven by work-related stressors and characterized by emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and low sense of personal accomplishment, has been associated with a higher frequency of medical errors, lapses in professionalism, impeded learning, problematic alcohol use, and suicidal ideation. Physicians who report symptoms of burnout are more likely to have career dissatisfaction and to leave their current practice, retire early, or reduce their clinical hours.
Young doctors in training to become urologists, neurologists, emergency medicine physicians, and general surgeons were more likely to express symptoms of burnout compared to residents entering primary care fields of pediatrics, family medicine, and internal medicine. (Dermatology residents, unsurprisingly, had the lowest burnout rate.) Residents with higher medical school debts, says Cahan, have higher rates of burnout so alleviating that factor, as NYU is so generously attempting, can make a positive difference for physicians and the patients they care for:
To the extent that burnout precipitates depression and early retirement —as well as increased medical error rates and poorer patient care—debt incurred during medical training is yoked to patients and providers alike.
Will free medical school tuition with no strings attached become a trend? We will just need to stay tuned to find out. In the meantime, NYU Medical School will probably go to the top of every prospect’s list of applications.