Medical schools offer a good but expensive student investment

A new report from the Association of American Medical Colleges shows that debt is holding steady at around $200,000 for graduates
By: | October 15, 2020
FG Trade/Getty Images

A recently released report from the Association of American Medical Colleges shares insight on the state of financial health of medical school graduates – 73% say they have education debt that averages around $200,000.

That percentage is down from the 86% that was reported in 2012, while the total amount has remained stable since 2018. However, the AAMC noted in its findings that while medical school “remains a good investment,” the cost is still high and those numbers also don’t factor in the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Medical education has become increasingly expensive, and many students will face the challenges of assuming significant debt during their education,” David Skorton, AAMC president and CEO, said in a release.

Medical schools across the U.S. have grown, with 16 having a graduating class, according to the AAMC. Enrollment is up by just over 30% since 2002. Although many schools have taken steps to augment student debt by giving grants and scholarships, that assistance often only covers a portion of the overall costs, which can stretch into the six-figure range for students. The AAMC says that debt could take a decade or two to pay off, putting graduates in challenging financial positions.

Schools looking to help defray costs for students could consider a few strategies, including offering additional scholarships to students, providing loan assistance programs or reducing tuition cost. To help mitigate medical student debt, for example, Yale University’s School of Medicine in 2018, reduced the amount of its unit loan to help lessen a student’s responsibility from $30,000 per year to $15,000.

A closer look at the AAMC’s findings show some disparity among different racial and ethnic groups, most notably that Blacks were more likely to have debt at 91% and at a median average of $230,000, while Whites were at around $200,000. The percentage of Hispanic students incurring debt was higher than the average at 84%, though the overall debt amount was less at 190,000. The subset of American Indian and Alaska natives were at 80% and $212,375. Asians had the lowest rate of debt at 61% and the lowest median debt amount at $180,000.