In a move it said was to address the large cost of entering a career in medicine, New York University's School of Medicine said Thursday that it will offer full scholarships to all current and future students in its doctor of medicine program.
NYU said it was the "only top 10-ranked" medical school in the U.S. to offer such a generous package.
"I'm proud to announce that as of right now, every student that we admit to New York University School of Medicine comes tuition-free," Kenneth G. Langone, chair of the board of trustees, said in a video announcement Thursday. "And this includes the incoming class and the upperclassmen as well that are here right now — no more tuition."
"They walk out of here unencumbered, looking at a future where they can do what their passion tells them, which is to help people live better quality lives," he added.
The program covers a yearly tuition of $55,018, NYU says.
Students will not have a totally free ride, however. According to The Wall Street Journal, most medical students will still foot the bill for about $29,000 each year in room, board and other living expenses. The scholarships will help 93 first-year students along with 350 already partially through the program, the Journal reports. Several students enrolled in a joint MD/Ph.D. program are already offered free tuition under a separate program.
Three out of four medical school graduates in 2017 graduated in debt, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. Of those in debt, the median amount was $192,000, the group says.
NYU also says medical school debt is "reshaping the medical profession," as graduates choose more lucrative specialized fields in medicine rather than primary care.
A report from the AAMC in April said the U.S. faces a shortage of doctors of all types — perhaps more than 120,000 by 2030. The predictions vary widely, however, to between 42,600 and 121,300. The group says the country will be lacking between 14,800 and 49,300 primary care physicians by 2030, while "non-primary care specialties" will fall short by 33,800 and 72,700 doctors.
NYU's announcement follows Columbia University saying in December that its medical school would offer full-tuition scholarships to certain students in need, along with grants to other students.
NYU said the free tuition would cost about $600 million to fund indefinitely, and that it had raised $450 million of that already, according to The New York Times. Langone, who founded Home Depot, and his wife Elaine, contributed $100 million of that total.
The school says it hopes the plan will also increase diversity among its students — what it calls "a full retrofitting of the pipeline that trains and finances" future doctors.
The AAMC reported almost 90,000 students enrolled in U.S. medical schools for the 2017-2018 school year. About 52 percent of them identified as white, 21 percent as Asian, 8 percent as multiple race/ethnicity, 7 percent as African-American, and 6 percent as Hispanic or Latino, and smaller percentages for other groups.