- Two universities in Texas have received approval from a state oversight agency to open new medical schools, helping to offset a highly publicized shortage of physicians in the state while raising concerns over the number of medical schools already there, according to The Texas Tribune. Both schools must now obtain accreditation.
- The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board approved plans for the University of Houston and the University of North Texas Health Science Center to start doctorate programs. The University of Houston has raised $35 million for the medical school and is seeking $40 million in state aid for its program, which will train primary care doctors to work in underserved communities. North Texas, which will operate the program with Texas Christian University, received a donation to cover the first year of tuition for its incoming class.
- Lawmakers, higher education officials and others have expressed concern that adding more state-funded medical programs would reduce state dollars available for residency positions that help retain doctors from the state's 10-plus medical programs.
Advocates for more medical schools in Texas cite data from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) ranking Texas 47th among U.S. states for having enough primary care physicians. The University of Houston pledged that at least half its graduates each year will specialize in primary care.
A separate AAMC study released earlier this year found the U.S. could face a combined shortage of up to 120,000 primary and non-primary care physicians by 2030. A major reason for the decline is aging baby boomers requiring more medical care as well as retirements among doctors, with one-third of active doctors becoming older than 65 in the next decade. The AAMC said it supports legislation to increase federal funding to add 3,000 residency positions annually for five years as well as incentives to drive graduates to specialties and communities where they are needed.
That shortage of doctors, particularly among primary care physicians, was a consideration in the opening of two new medical schools recently at the Claremont Colleges, in California, and Seton Hall University, in New Jersey. It also has prompted some universities, most recently New York University's School of Medicine, to offer free tuition to help reduce the median $192,000 in total debt medical students will incur in 2018.
Some advocates of steep tuition discounts for medical school say the significant student debt required deters qualified students from entering the medical field. In addition, the number of students applying to medical school has increased 35% over the last decade while acceptance rates have narrowed, according to U.S. News & World Report, making it more challenging for students to benefit from efforts to reduce the cost of medical school programs.