New York University (NYU) delivered a surprising announcement for its new freshman class: the tuition for its medical school would be free for all students, regardless of merit or financial status. NYU has already raised $450 million for the tuition according to Forbes, a considerable amount of money that can be credited to Kenneth Langone, co-founder of Home Depot. The university now intends to utilize the funds to accommodate a cost of around $55,000 for all 400 students enrolled in its medical program.
“This is unprecedented news in a prestigious university like NYU,” said Leonard Lee (11), a MUN member. “Attending universities nowadays is culturally viewed as less of a choice and more as a prerequisite for students. The decision to subsidize a great subset of its education is amazing, especially considering how much students are pressured to go to universities despite the costs. This news definitely affects a lot of my friends who are really into science and medicine and are even more determined to apply for NYU’s medical program.”
The program was initiated due to many graduates entrapped in major financial debts, deterring future careers in relatively low-income specialties such as pediatrics and primary care. In fact, the New York Times reported that in 2017, roughly 62 percent of the students in NYU’s School of Medicine graduated with an average debt of $184,000. Due to the increasing financial burden on aspiring students, many now choose to pursue higher-paying specialties of medicine such as dermatology or plastic surgery instead of the less profitable areas like family care. Such student preferences could be detrimental to the advancement of important healthcare systems since there are not enough general physicians in low-income and rural areas. Apart from empowering a crucial field in medical science, NYU also hopes to promote economic and social diversity with its new program by eliminating money, a primary external factor, in influencing students’ college decisions.
“If we want any advances in science or medicine, we need to invest more in students and primarily their education,” said Patrick Young, high school English teacher. “It is great that NYU’s decision to provide free tuition can alleviate the financial burdens of many students. I know for a fact that my brother still has several years of debt to pay back after graduating from college. Tuition prices are exploding nowadays, so this decision is important in sustaining the jobs in areas that are needed the most.”
NYU is the first top-ranked medical school in America to offer scholarships to a wide range of applicants, sparking intense competition among other high-ranking medical schools and encouraging them to devise ways to maintain their adroit pool of applicants. It is a trend for medical schools across the country to keep educational costs low; for example, according to the Business Insider, Vanderbilt Medical School is now offering 70 percent of its students with scholarships while John Hopkins University is similarly prioritizing more financial aid. However, as much as NYU’s decision initiated social progress, it also invited criticism and speculation regarding its efficacy.
“NYU’s decision is symbolically setting a trend for other universities, but fails to live up to its own expectations in reality,” said Katherine Suk (9), MUN member. “I doubt that a free access to college education would resolve all the obstacles students face when opting into a field like primary care. Many students who want a stable and high paying job are discouraged to pursue it because of the inherent disparity in wealth between general physicians and specialists. A better solution would not be giving free tuition to every medical student, but specifically reimbursing and subsidizing those who do choose primary care careers.”
Another concern people have with free tuition is the increasing selectivity of schools. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, only 21,338 students out of 51,680 applicants were admitted last year and NYU’s current freshman class shrank by 30 to 40 students. By making it more difficult for students to be matriculated, more students in the long term may be possibly denied of opportunities. Though it remains controversial to what extent the program can positively impact the lives of students in the long term, the free tuition has indisputably turned the tables for the future of medical science, redefining the purpose of university education and at least for now, relieving the financial burdens of its students.