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.