- New York University's (NYU) move to waive medical school tuition apparently answered cynics, boosting applications by 47% while more than doubling those from underrepresented groups, Inside Higher Ed reported. The school saw the largest increase among African American, black and Afro-Caribbean applicants, who rose in number by 142% to 1,062.
- Its School of Medicine announced in August that it had raised enough money to fund tuition, which was listed at $55,000 per year, for its 400-plus students.
- Some questioned whether the move would actually increase and diversify its applicant pool or encourage students to pursue less lucrative fields within medicine.
NYU's decision aimed to address two fundamental concerns about medical training: the soaring rate of its students' debt and the lack of diversity among applicants.
Medical school graduates averaged about $181,200 in student debt from public institutions and $206,204 from private ones in 2017, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).
While medical schools became more diverse over the last four decades, AAMC reported most of the change came in the number of Asian students, which grew from 4% of the medical school population in 1980 to 21.3% in 2016.
Hispanic or Latino students had smaller gains, rising from 4.9% to 6.3% during the period, similar to those of black students, which crept from 6% to 7.1%. White students decreased in share and in number, falling from 83.7% in 1980 to 51.5% in 2016.
Relieving the financial strain of a medical degree may also address the insufficient number of doctors in some fields of medicine.
AAMC says the U.S. could see a shortage of about 120,000 primary and non-primary care physicians by 2030 as more doctors retire and the large and aging baby boomer generation requires care. Last fall, two universities got approval to open medical schools in Texas, a state that ranks No. 47 in the nation for having enough primary care physicians. Seton Hall University, in New Jersey, recently added a medical school, and another is planned for the Claremont Colleges, in California.
Some have applauded NYU's move to offer free tuition and say it is the route higher education generally may have to follow.