Medical students’ indebtedness is nothing new. For decades, would-be doctors and physicians have undertaken a sea of loans on their journey to an M.D. So what’s changed? Since the Financial Crisis of 2008, the median debt levels have hovered around $170,000, nearly double what they were twenty years ago. 86% of all medical students have accumulated debt, with over a third owing more than $200k. As base tuition, student fees, and the overall cost of attendance have surged, the students are left with a mountain of a bill.
In 1992, the median, adjusted for inflation, was $91,729. Last year, it was $170,000. This represents an 85% increase, just over two decades.
While two-thirds of medical students are carrying more than $150k in loans, one out of every six graduates owes more than a quarter million dollars.
Following the Financial Crisis, the percentage of indebted students reached an all-time high of 87% in 2008 and 2009.
In 1992, one-year tuition at public and private schools were $6,740 and $18,365, respectively. As the steady increase far outpaced national inflation and the Consumer Price Index, 2012 students at public institutions pay five times as much, while private school attendees are charged nearly three times that cost.
The Cost of Attendance (COA) represents the all-encompassing price tag of a medical school education, including tuition, fees, textbooks, and cost of living. Throughout their four years, most students can expect to pay between $200k and $300k in total.
The four-year COA of private schools has jumped 69% between 1998 and 2011, while public colleges have spiked an astounding 94%.
Despite these increasingly daunting bills, 2011 scholarship data has shown that grants cover a mere fraction of the overall cost of medical school.
With $170,000 in debt, in order to pay off the loans in twenty years a student will accumulate an additional $192,000 in interest and ultimately end up dishing out around $362,000 in total repayment.
Although all races and ethnicities face some degree of indebtedness, nearly all non-Hispanic Blacks and African-Americans are in debt upon graduation. These high levels have contributed to a decrease in enrollment by some minority groups, when the need for diversity in the medical field is ever-growing.
With 141 accredited institutions that can grant an M.D., the quantity and intensity of debt can vary greatly. In looking at the top ten schools by average student debt, West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine takes home the gold with their graduates on the hook for over $242k.
The path to earning a medical degree already involves tremendous sacrifice and a perseverant resoluteness that we all can admire. Why afflict such a burden on these future doctors and physicians? The United States has some of the best medical professionals in the world, yet we choose to risk this prominence by limiting opportunities to those who can afford it, or be buried in debt. Education, and the freedom to attain, must be preserved. For med students, however, that ship is starting to sail.