opinion   |   oped

NYU's free medical school is a move in the right direction

New York University’s School of Medicine announced Aug. 16 that it is cutting tuition for all current and future students in its M.D. degree program, regardless of need or merit. The usual tuition is now covered by a $55,018 yearly scholarship for each student.

They are the only top ten-ranked medical school in the country to offer such a scholarship according to the announcement from the university. 

What the board of trustees at NYU have done is incredibly beneficial to their students, to the medical field in general and possibly even to the university in the long run. 

For obvious reasons, this is great news for students. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges indebted medical students graduating from private institutions owe on average over $206,000. 

NYU's new full scholarship is also a smart move for the sake of the medical field and will subsequently benefit the common good. The AAMC estimates that by 2030 there will be a shortage of up to 120,000 physicians.  Offering tuition-free medical school is an incredible incentive for students to go into the medical field.

Similarly, with medical school being priced as highly as it has been, NYU claims there has been an incentive for students to go into more lucrative specialties and stay away from primary care, pediatrics, and obstetrics and gynecology.

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians in 2015 primary care physicians earn $195,000 annually, compared with $284,000 for physicians in other specialties.

Opening up the possibility of a debt-free lifestyle for doctors will allow them to expand into the fields where they are most needed, even if it is less lucrative, because they will be less persuaded by salary and more so by pure interest. 

Furthermore, NYU has set even itself up for success. By eliminating their tuition fees there will be an increased competition for the medical school, allowing it to thrive further academically. They will eventually and inevitably raise their ranking to become an even greater medical school.

Other graduate programs outside of the field of medicine have offered full-tuition scholarships to all of its students.  For instance the Yale School of Music is tuition-free for all accepted students, and it is subsequently adds to the greatness of the school. An environment with greater students ultimately makes the school greater.

This move from the medical school at NYU is fairly unprecedented. And it may open doors to similar actions from other private universities.

But that is ultimately key: keeping it limited to private institutions — or at least limited to privately-funded scholarships.

Even though there are long-lasting, beneficial outcomes from tuition-free medical school, it goes to say that the rich benefactors for NYU can fund this at the private institution, but this idea needs to keep away from taxpayer dollars.  

Public medical schools like Indiana University's would thrive with no tuition fees, however, it simply is not plausible. Privately-funded, limited scholarships would increase competition, the amount of people who enter the medical field and the primary-care industry. But that should not be a definitive, unilateral decision coming from the school, because, although there are many beneficial outcomes to free medical school, that is not to say open doors for general free college, paid for by taxpayers.

Ultimately the issue lies with those who believe in the benefit of tuition-free medical school and have the money to offer the possibility.  More of those people ought to step up and make a long-lasting change to these students, to the medical field and to the world.

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