Citing concerns over the “overwhelming financial debt” graduates face, the New York University School of Medicine announced Thursday that tuition for all its current and future students will be covered, regardless of need or merit. The scholarship will cover roughly $55,000 of yearly tuition costs.
The stunning announcement was made at the end of the school’s annual White Coat Ceremony in which new medical students receive white lab coats to commemorate the start of their M.D. degree program.
The initiative comes at a time when increasing costs is at the center of the higher education debates across the nation, as students face thousands of dollars in debt, the school said in a statement. At least 75 percent of physicians in the United States graduated with educational debt in 2017, according to the school’s press release citing the Association of American Medical Colleges. On average, doctors who graduate from a private school end up with $202,000 in debt.
As a consequence of staggering costs, the healthcare industry is seeing students worried about their steep debt increasingly pursuing top-paying specialties rather than careers in family medicine, obstetrics, and gynecology, pediatrics, and research, according to the press release.
“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,” said Robert I. Grossman, dean of the medical school and CEO of NYU Langone Health.
NYU School of Medicine’s initiative steers away from the current efforts to curb the problem, which focus on helping undergraduates cover the balance of their tuition bills. The school’s initiative goes beyond that and may inspire other private institutions to follow suit, The New York Times reported.
NYU School of Medicine said it is the first private U.S. medical school, and the only one ranked in the top 10, to offer free tuition to all its students, according to its statement. The school currently has 93 first-year students and another 350 students who have up to three years left before finishing their degrees. Another small group of students enrolled in joint M.D./Ph.D. programs already have their tuitions paid for by the National Institutes of Health, the Times reported.
Students will still be responsible for room and board fees, which, on average, add up to about $27,000.
The school said it will need more than $600 million to carry out its plan, of which more than $450 million has been raised, according to the Times. About a quarter of that value was donated by the owner of Home Depot, Kenneth G. Langone, for whom the School of Medicine was named.