How to Go to Medical School for Free
From merit-based to military scholarships, here's how to do medical school without going bankrup
Peter Bach, of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and Robert Kocher, of the Brookings Institution , argue that medical school should be free. In a May 2011 New York Times op-ed, the two doctors said M.D. programs could be free if they suspended stipends for students in specialty training programs. Since a specialist can earn $325,000 annually compared to a primary care doctor's $190,000, Bach and Kocher said specialists could forgo their stipends without too much pain.
"Our approach has no strings and does not require any decisions about future career be made in advance of medical school," Bach and Kocher -- who have received calls from Capitol Hill staffers, current administration, and a Republican candidate's team wanting to help implement their plan -- said in an E-mail.
But for now, medical school isn't free for the overwhelming majority of students in the United States, and aspiring M.D.'s can expect to pay more on average than their predecessors, according to a recent Association of American Medical Colleges report. Nonresident students at public schools -- the subset with the highest tuition costs, according to the report -- will pay about $188,000 over a four-year period, on average, not including room and board.
Primary care doctors earn an average annual salary of $186,582, according to a recent a study in Health Affairs, which means medical school costs remain a challenge for those who aren't destined to host Extreme Makeover or Dr. 90210. Luckily, there are some ways to earn an M.D. without taking out huge loans.
For example, Vanderbilt University's School of Medicine offers eight non-need-based scholarships, according to its website. Carla Valenzuela, a second-year student at Vanderbilt, holds one of the school's Cornelius Vanderbilt Scholarships, which covers 75 percent of her tuition.
Though an "incredible honor," Valenzuela says the scholarship didn't affect her choice of schools. "I know it sounds crazy, but I seriously wanted to go to a school that 'fit' and didn't care about the cost," she says.
According to its website, Washington University in St. Louis's School of Medicine is "among a small number of medical schools which offer merit-based scholarships," all of them full tuition, as well as a scholarship for women studying at the school. University of Virginia's School of Medicine also offers merit scholarships -- some of them a full ride.
Eve Privman, a third-year medical student at UVA, has her tuition and fees waived as part of the National Institutes of Health's Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP), which also pays stipends to 933 budding researchers in joint M.D.-Ph.D. programs at 45 institutions. Privman, who had been torn between pursuing a research career and an M.D., says she was "ecstatic" to learn of the combined program.
But she stresses that the seven- or eight-year program isn't really a free M.D., and students who treat it that way might be getting free classes but, for the doctoral half of the program, are "essentially losing four years of doctor's salary."
Myles Akabas, who directs the MSTP at Yeshiva University's Albert Einstein College of Medicine , says Einstein's admissions committee is "very concerned" about students -- generally those from lower income backgrounds who can't imagine receiving a $250,000 loan -- mistaking the program for a free M.D. Einstein spends "a lot of time" trying to identify their applications and direct them elsewhere, says Akabas, who was involved in a 2010 study of 24 M.D.-Ph.D. programs nationwide.
Like MSTP in general, Case Western Reserve University's College of Medicine offers full scholarships that cover tuition and fees for "physician investigators," in response to the fact that "less than two percent of active physicians [are] pursuing careers involving research."
Aspiring M.D.'s who don't want doctorates might consider loan repayment plans such as the National Health Service Corps , which repays up to $60,000 in loans for awardees who commit to working in "Health Professional Shortage Areas" for two years. Another option is the military-sponsored Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP).
According to Christopher Dillon, a physician recruiting liaison for the Army Medical Command's Medical Recruiting Brigade, the Army represents the largest portion of HPSP: more than 1,100 students at more than 150 medical schools. HPSP pays full tuition, supplies, and fees for any accredited U.S. or Puerto Rican medical school, as well as a monthly stipend of $2,088 for 10 and a half months and a second lieutenant's salary -- roughly double the stipend -- for the other six weeks.
"If the school requires it to attend, then the scholarship will pay for it," says Dillon, an HPSP recipient in 1985.
Eric Ness, whose studies at UVA are funded by the Air Force, says it's "a very generous deal," though HPSP comes with strings attached. He needs to apply for an Air Force residency after medical school, and he owes the Air Force three years of service to repay the three years of his scholarship.
Dillon, who never expected he'd practice medicine in the Army two decades ago, says the commitment is a good trade. The Army is "very family friendly," and all service members get 30 days of paid vacation per year, he says. "It provides the balance that many young professionals desire in their lives."
- Global Classrooms Use Technology to Prep Students for Workforce
- Yammer Trumps Facebook for Some Graduate Students
- How to Apply to College for Free
- President Lays Out New Student Loan Rules
- Some Recommend Working for Colleges for Free Tuition
- 4 Tech Tips for Parents to Embrace Digital Education
- How to Go to Medical School for Free
- Students Can Ditch Competition by Interning This Spring
- 5 New Ways Colleges Are Reaching High School Students
- College Admissions Officials Turn to Facebook to Research Students
- At Some Colleges, Professors Live in Dorms, Too
- The Viability and Fairness of Value-Added Models for STEM Teachers
- High School Students Learning by Skype
- The Unorthodox Success Strategies of Millionaires
- 7 Ways to Slip Through the Sophomore Slump
- Colleges Step Up to Meet Dyslexia Challenge
- How to Save Time On Your College Applications
- Common Application Goes Mobile With New Site
- Baby Boomers Keep Learning With Continuing Education Classes
- Why Math and Science Education Means More Jobs
- AP Test Results Offer Hope for STEM Education in U.S.
- Companies Must Play a Vital Role in STEM Education
- Output Metrics Increasingly Influence College Decisions
- 6 Ways to Network While You're in College
- SAT Reading Scores Lowest in 40 Years
- Growing Number of College Grads Filing for Bankruptcy Protection
- Back to School and Deeper in Debt
- Dipping Into Your Retirement Account to Pay for College
- Colleges Offer Hidden Savings to Students
- 5 Ways Commuters Can Make Campus Feel Like Home
- Dropouts Rob Government and Economy of Billions
- Student Loans Pack Surprising Benefits
- These Free Websites Help Students With Classwork
- Investing in Education Is Smart Business
- STEM Education - It's Elementary
- STEM Education and Teachers: The Critical Link
- Steps to Financially Prepare Your Student for College
- Student-Teacher Social Media Restrictions Get Mixed Reactions
- Navigate the Booming Computer Science Market
- How Higher Education Affects Lifetime Salary
- Unfinished College Degree Means Less Money
- American Parents Tapping Into Retirement Fund to Pay For College Education
- 7 Tools to Aid the College Admissions Process
- LinkedIn Offers New Options for Students
- 10 Colleges That Lead to Graduate School
- How to Qualify for Out-of-State Tuition Breaks
- 5 Ways Summer Melt May Mean Financial Aid for You
- The Growing Culture of Unpaid Internships
- An Expensive, Alternative Route to Medical School
- Brazil Joins Race for Globalized Students
- Job Opportunity for Entrepreneurial New Grads
- Emerging Technology Has Positive Impact in Classroom
- The Ethics of Unpaid Internships: When are unpaid internships legal?
- Go Overseas to Find Yourself
- 10 Most Expensive Private Business Schools
- 10 Least Expensive Private Business Schools
- 10 Least Expensive Public Business Schools for Out-of-State Students
- South Korea's School Tablets -- a Test for All
- 4 Overlooked Ways to Pay for College
- 10 Least Expensive Public Business Schools for In-State Students
- 10 Most Expensive Public Business Schools for In-State Students
- 10 Most Expensive Public Business Schools for Out-of-State Students
- Weigh the Value of a Summer Business Program
- Why New Graduates Should Consider Entrepreneurship
- Prediction Tools Gauge College Admissions Chances
- Pros and Cons of Taking the GMAT in College
- 5 Tips to Use the Summer Before College Wisely
- 10 Private Universities With Largest Financial Endowments
- College Tuition Data Released for the First Time
- Some States Still Leave Low-Income Students Behind; Others Make Surprising Gains
- To Keep America Great Students Must Be Taught to Innovate
- Ask College Officials About Graduation Rates
- Wikipedia Gradually Accepted in College Classrooms
- 10 Least Expensive Public Colleges for Out-of-State Students
- 10 Most Expensive Public Colleges for Out-of-State Students
- Business Schools Hope to Shatter Sturdy Glass Ceiling
- A New Way Forward for U.S. High Schools
- How Slang Affects Students in the Classroom
- Thank You To My Children's Teachers
- 10 Most Expensive Public Colleges
- 10 Least Expensive Public Colleges for In-State Students
- 10 Least Expensive Private Colleges
- 10 Most Expensive Private Colleges
- Visit College Campuses From Home
- Education and Its Discontents
- M.B.A. Programs Tackle Global Challenge
- Colleges That Offer Courses and Choices for Vegetarians
- 5 Ways to Make a Jobless Summer Productive
- Fighting the Freshman 15 With Calorie Counts
- 10 Universities With the Smallest Classes
- Get a Head Start on College Visits
- Work At What You Love and Happiness Will Follow
- CEOs Teach in MBA Classrooms
- Business Schools Recruit Poets, Philosophers and Scientists
- 5 Unique Uses of Twitter in the Classroom
- Combating Student Disinterest in the Sciences
- Make College Worth the Cost
- Dear Class of 2011: Good Luck You're Really Going to Need It
- Americans Split on Value of a College Degree
- Specialized College Majors: High Risk and High Reward
- YouTube Goes to College
- Last-Minute College Options Abound for Fall 2011
- Not Too Late to Find a Summer Job or Internship
- Financial Aid 101: Fill Out the FAFSA
- Pros and Cons of a Post-graduation Gap Year
- WikiLeaks Copycat to Expose Universities' Dirty Laundry
- 7 Biggest Money Mistakes College Graduates Make
- Where the M.B.A. Jobs Are
- Commencement Speakers to Inspire
- What Potential MCAT Changes Mean for Premed Students
- Educators Rethink Teacher Training
- Top Ways to Save Money At College
- Customize and Digitize Your College Education
- Online Education May Transform Higher Ed
- Solving Our School Problems Not a Matter of Gimmicky Ideas
- 10 College Classes That Impact the Outside World
- Don't Settle When Choosing an Internship
- How to Accept College Rejection
- Colleges Bring Campuses to Facebook
- Get Educated about Student Loan Repayment Options
- 10 Steps to Picking the Right College
- Treat Your Career Like a SmartPhone
- Child-Friendly College Programs for Parents
- Online Law Schools Have Yet to Pass the Bar
- Is It Time to Go Back to School?
- A Harvard Education Is Not As Advertised
- The College That Rejects You May Be Doing You a Favor
- College Rejections Are Not the End of the World
- Is Everything We 'Know' About School Reform Wrong?
- Potential Cuts to Pell Grant Could Affect Students in 2011
- Executive MBA Pay and Demand on the Rise
- How to Evaluate College Financial Aid Options
- Graduate Schools Quantify Your Potential
- AP Science and Math Enrollment Surges
- 4 Tips to Learn a Foreign Language in College
- In My Opinion, I Am Mother, Hear Me Roar
- School Choice Is the Most Critical Civil Rights Issue of Our Time
- 6 Steps to Beating the Shortage of Financial Aid
- Cheaper Student Loans, But Shortage of College Grants Likely in 2011 and 2012
- Your Professor, Your Computer, and You
- Reach Your Goals More Quickly: Use Incremental Change
- Searching for 'Perfect Fit' College Can Be A Big Mistake
- Best and Brightest Teachers Key to Solving U.S. Education Crisis
- 'Tiger Mom' Offers Clues to Race Gaps
- M.B.A. Programs Go Global
- New Website Streamlines College-Aid Application
Copyright © 2011 U.S. News & World Report