The U.S. World and Weekly Report published an article in 2013 citing financial stress as a major cause of medical school drop-out rates. On Aug. 16, 2018, the New York University School of Medicine announced that it would offer free tuition to current and future students, citing concerns about the financial burden placed on students post-graduation.
According to the New York Times, the effort began in 2011 and received a major advance when billionaire Kenneth Langone and his wife donated $100 million. The announcement garnered significant shock, with some questioning how the new free-tuition standard would make medical schools more competitive.
Addison Yates, a senior biochemistry and molecular biology double major, said that he considered NYU when applying to schools, but ultimately applied elsewhere.
“I did consider NYU because it has a reputation as a great medical school. Cost was definitely a part of my consideration,” Yates said. “I also thought about things like how far away it is from home and from the people I love and what it would be like to live in that area.”
The former tuition cost of attending NYU was $55,000 annually, which falls below the national median average for private research universities. With that cost out of the way, Yates indicated that he would reconsider applying to the school.
Dr. Deborah Duke, assistant dean of pre-professional programs and chair of the health science committee, said that though financial burden resonates with students, she rarely sees a student refrain from applying to a school of choice due to tuition price.
“Sometimes affordability is a factor in a student’s choice of medical schools, if the student has a choice. Someone said that ‘the best medical school is the one you get in.’ When students have only expensive choices, they will still go,” Duke said. “People are willing to make many sacrifices to be a doctor.”
It should also be noted that though NYU’s tuition costs are now covered, all other student expenses must still be paid. At NYU, the combined cost of room and board, books, and other fees tallies to just over $27,000 annually. Comparatively, the annual tuition at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences is just over $32,000 for Arkansas residents, and $62,000 for non-arkansas residents.
There is now an obvious benefit to attending NYU Medical School – the thousands of dollars saved. With so much cost covered, other medical schools must find ways to be competitive. According to Duke, many schools have large endowments that allow them to offer large scholarships of their own. Besides the price, other schools can bolster the quality of their education and of their atmosphere – something Yates said he believes could eclipse cost.
“While cost is very important to consider, as a physician I would assume that I would not struggle financially after I finished school, so the debt I incurred while I was in school would be manageable,” Yates said. “Getting a higher quality education or a higher quality experience at a higher cost would be worth it to me. Especially because that’s where you’re going to spend four or more years of your life.”
For some, the decision will come down to cost, and for others, to the quality of the atmosphere. NYU, ranked the 3rd best medical school for research by the US News and World Report, has both. According to Duke, the application process to the school will only grow more extreme.
“With free tuition, more students will apply there. They want to get the very best,” Duke said. “They want to help students have less debt, but they also want to get the very best candidates.”