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Our Take: NYU takes gutsy step, offers free tuition for medical students

Aug 20, 2018

The New York University School of Medicine announced that it is now offering free tuition for medical students, becoming the first major medical school in the U.S. to offer tuition-free education.

“Our full-tuition scholarships make it possible for aspiring physicians to choose a specialty based on their talent and inclinations to better serve the communities who need it most, and to more easily pursue scientific breakthroughs that improve how we care for patients,” the school posted on the homepage of its website.

Robert Grossman, dean of NYU School of Medicine and CEO of NYU Langone Health, said in a statement: “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.”

Our TakeWhat a bold move. NYU consistently ranks at the top of the nation’s best medical schools, making the announcement even more stunning. It’s not as if the school was having a hard time attracting talented students.

Moreover, NYU’s medical school will offer free tuition in perpetuity. Every incoming student will have tuition covered, and those who are already in the program will have their tuition waived. Prior to the announcement, tuition at the school was about $55,000 per year.

The scholarship program was made possible through a fundraising effort that so far totals $450 million, with support from big donors like Home Depot founder Kenneth Langone and his wife, Elaine, The Wall Street Journal reported.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the average medical student finishes school with about $200,000 in debt. The incentive, then, for many students is to seek the highest-paying specialties or go to work for a health system that will pay off their student loans.

Our question is: Will other schools follow suit? Harvard has a $35.6 billion endowment. Yale? $25.4 billion. Stanford? $22.4 billion.

It isn’t a question of if other institutions will follow NYU’s example. It’s a matter of when. NYU won’t be alone on an island for long.

NYU has taken the first step by a medical school to directly tackle health care costs from an entirely different perspective: making the education of our next generation of doctors affordable. The school’s leaders are to be commended.

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