The Day Everything Changed

crispydoc Uncategorized 8 Comments

Yesterday, despite your not having felt it, a seismic shift occurred in medical school tuition. It was not my Californian bona fides as a resident of the earthquake state that put me in touch with this new reality. Rather, NYU announced that medical school tuition would henceforth be completely free for all NYU medical students.

In an era where $200,000 is the average medical school debt, this is a game-changer with far reaching consequences. I can think of four huge impacts.

First, NYU’s free tuition is independent of need. That means the doctor’s kids and the janitor’s kids pay nothing. Currently, any high income professionals who read this blog are among generation hosed: your income disqualifies you from discounted tuition at a time of record-high tuition costs. NYU now offers a ray of light for getting your children through medical school without hemorrhaging money.

Second, this is certain to start an arms race with any school whose endowment or reputation is perceived to be in a similar league as NYU. Top tier private and public medical schools will need to match this offer in order to continue to attract and retain the best talent.

Third, I would not be surprised if over the next decade we witness a separation of premier class medical schools that have sufficient resources to provide free tuition to their student body, and all other medical schools who cannot afford to offer this perk.

Finally, this class division among medical schools may become self-perpetuating: if you paid no tuition as a medical student, the tremendous boost in income that head start provides may well foster multiple generations of incredibly grateful and committed alumni who in turn contribute to the school out of gratitude and retain a strong sense of school identity over their lifetimes, increasing legacy gifts in the long run. Referencing number one above, grateful high-income parents whose pocketbooks were miraculously spared the fate of their peers may also be more inclined to contribute to NYU’s fundraisers after NYU has educated their children for free.

If nothing else, this is a win for medical students and a check against the rampant cost shifting and inflation of debt burdens borne by students during their medical education.

A break like this in a city where it’s great to be young and alive might well have caused most physicians to reconsider their choice of medical school.

Comments 8

  1. Great summary of what I indeed hope will occur, a tuition race to the bottom so that many big time medical schools who wish to retain their ranking can attract quality students.

    I can only imagine the bump in quality of applications nyu will have given the free tuition.

    Would love to see this trickle down to college level but due to size of classes may never be a reality

    1. Post

      I wouldn’t be surprised if NYU is not alone. Free tuition might have been on the radar of a number of schools’ long-term plans, and NYU may just trigger their boards to accelerate the process. I remember that way back when I applied, there were rumors Penn was in the process of funding medical school as tuition free. It will be most exciting to see how other institutions respond!

      And while there will need to be a greater precedent set for undergraduate institutions, don’t forget that Cooper Union in NYC was free for many years, and New York state has implemented a program to make tuition free at public colleges for middle class students. Won’t help our kids, but might get the ball rolling.

  2. Great trend. It is totally crazy that the big endowment schools charge any tuition. I have thought this a long time. This will cause some state schools problems perhaps. Recently state schools have benefited from go to the cheapest school that accepts you.

  3. Not sure how I feel about this. It’s 132 students. It will surely affect other school’s matriculation that might not be as well endowed, or state funded schools that live in a sea of debt. Does it turn NYU medical school into a modern day rendition of Charlie and the chocolate factory? Is the place full of oompa loompas? Will recipients having no debt leave medicine 5 years after residency instead of having to sweat out 10 years or God forbid 20 years? Since it’s not costing you anything can you just hang at the beach and roll by every 2 weeks to take the test? What if you turn into a blueberry? In general I’m a fan of creative destruction in the face of a normal market. It generally yields greater efficiency, but is this creative?

  4. This has to instantly make NYU one of the most competitive med schools to get into.

    It’s also a great opportunity for a longitudinal study on the effect of debt on specialty selection. I suspect the bump in primary care specialities will not be as big as some anticipate.

    Oh to be 21 again!

    1. Post

      Side Hustle Scrubs,

      Free is a powerful draw. Add to that a well-respected institution, the power of an MD degree and an exceptional city to serves as a backdrop for 4 years and you’ve got a very powerful package that rivals will need to compete with.

      I agree that despite the small n, it would be interesting to determine if there is any significant impact that freedom from debt (or less debt, presumably from an undergraduate degree) has on specialty choice.

      Let the games begin!


  5. @sidehustlescrubs

    We will never see or know the results, but it would be interesting to compare the “bump” in primary care career selections to the bump in Tesla car acquisitions or bump in early retirees among the NYU cohort.

    Perhaps I am jaded, but while tuition might go away, human nature does not change on a dime. I would predict a greater increase in Tesla cars (or substitute another doc status marker) and early retirees.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.