Kaplan Survey: Aspiring Doctors Say Free Medical School Tuition is the Way to Go, but a Majority of Admissions Officers Say It’s Not on the Horizon

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Press Contact: Russell Schaffer, russell.schaffer@kaplan.com, 212.453.7538
Twitter: @KapTestNews, @KaplanMCATPrep

New York, NY (December 4, 2019) ⁠— Pre-med students have caught free tuition fever, but medical school admissions officers say that’s not something they will be able to offer within the next 10 years, find two new Kaplan Test Prep surveys. According to nearly 350 pre-med students who were polled, 47 percent say medical schools should go tuition free for all of their students, regardless of income, something NYU announced last year for its students; 19 percent favor free tuition, but only for students whose family income/ability to pay is below a certain threshold, something Cornell’s medical school recently announced; and 34 percent believe medical schools should continue to award financial aid however they see fit*.

The survey also found that an overwhelming 80 percent of pre-meds think that the cost of medical schools “is a major prohibitive factor, which keeps many talented people from pursuing a medical career.”

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the average cost (tuition and fees) of attending a private medical school in the United States hovers around $60,000 per year; for in-state students at a public medical school, the cost is lower, but still not an insignificant $35,000 per year. AAMC data also shows that students graduate from medical school with a median debt of $200,000

A separate Kaplan survey of admissions officers at 70 medical schools, however, finds that free tuition is still largely a pipedream**. Just 4 percent say their school will adopt the NYU plan over the next five to 10 years, with an identically small 4 percent saying their school will adopt the Cornell plan. Kaplan’s 2018 survey of medical schools found similar results, suggesting little has changed over the past year, though strong majorities see free tuition as a good idea, in theory. As one admissions officers shared, “It’s a wonderful idea, but most schools can’t afford it.”  Another admissions officers called free tuition “idealistic and hard to implement.”

“While pre-med students understandably want to see fundamental changes in how medical school financial aid is awarded, medical schools are telling us that the days of taking out loans and accruing debt for their medical education are unfortunately far from over. Most medical schools say they have no plans to implement their own free tuition programs, but the fact that so many support the idea shows a recognition that there’s a problem and they seem willing to do something about it in smaller, but significant ways, like upping financial aid amounts,” says Dr. Jeff Koetje, director of pre-health programs, Kaplan Test Prep. “At Kaplan, we strongly advise aspiring doctors to carefully plan how they are going to pay for medical school as far in advance as possible. FAFSA, for example, which many undergrads are familiar with, also applies to medical school, so the process will be familiar. The more money you have before you apply, the less limited you will be in deciding where to ultimately enroll, if cost is prohibitive. It’s important to keep the conversation about the price of medical school education going and that is part of the impetus behind our ongoing research in the area. ”

In 2018, Kaplan Test Prep awarded more than $4.3 million in scholarships for students preparing for admission to graduate, medical, law, business, pharmacy and dental school. To apply, students can visit www.kaptest.com/tuitionassistance.  

To schedule an interview about Kaplan’s findings, contact Russell Schaffer at 212.453.7538 or russell.schaffer@kaplan.com

*349 pre-med students who either took an MCAT® course with Kaplan and/or planned to enroll in medical school were surveyed by email in November 2019.

**Admissions officers from 70 accredited medical schools across North America were polled by telephone between September and November 2019.

About Kaplan Test Prep

Kaplan Test Prep (www.kaptest.com) is a premier provider of educational and career services for individuals, schools and businesses. Established in 1938, Kaplan is the world leader in the test prep industry. With a comprehensive menu of online offerings as well as a complete array of print books and digital products, Kaplan offers preparation for more than 200 standardized tests, including entrance exams for secondary school, college and graduate school, as well as professional licensing exams for attorneys, physicians and nurses. Among those tests are the SAT®, PSAT®, ACT®, GRE®, GMAT®, LSAT®, MCAT®, NCLEX-RN® and bar exams. Kaplan also provides private tutoring and graduate admissions consulting services.

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