Mounting student loan debt is an increasing problem for many U.S. students and others around the world. As of 2020, over 43.4 million Americans have student loan debt totaling $1.68 trillion, and the average medical student takes on over $200,000 in loans.
Fortunately, student loans aren’t the only way to fund your med school education. Medical school costs can vary widely across different states and institutions, but understanding your costs and financing options before you apply can help you build a workable financing plan that can get you through medical school without being saddled by debt for the next 30 years.
Paying for Medical School
While all schools provide some information on tuition and fees through their websites, the listed costs don’t need to come directly out of your pocket. There are lots of ways to fund your med school education, and some of the funding methods are at no cost to you. As you are comparing the costs of medical schools, take some time to also compare the amount of no-cost or low-cost funding provided by each school.
Scholarships are another method that can be used to fund your med school education. Most scholarships have some sort of “merit” qualification – you may need to come from a certain background, live in a certain area, or have proof of a certain grade point average in order to qualify. The application process is generally easier than for grants, but you may still need to write an essay or complete other tasks to be eligible for the award. Scholarships are also competitive, especially if the application requirements are fairly simple. Fortunately, scholarships can be offered by anyone – from local organizations to major corporations – so there are thousands of scholarships available to students each year.
Work-study programs are another way to help cover medical school cost without later repayment. At first glance, work-study programs may not seem any different than holding down a part-time job while in school; you work a job in your field of study, and you earn a predetermined amount towards the cost of your medical education. However, work-study programs generally have a few advantages over working a regular job while in school:
Managers of work-study programs understand that your education is a priority, so they are generally more flexible in working around school schedules and exams.
Your financial aid office can help with securing you a work-study position, which can be beneficial if you have no previous work experience or job interview skills.
Unlike other forms of financial aid, work-study funds can be used for a variety of things while you are in school – including food or basic living necessities. They are also paid to you directly, so you control how the funds are spent.
Most part-time jobs are located off campus, which can make transportation a challenge. Most work-study jobs are located on-campus, making it easier for students to fit working hours in between classes.
The terms “grant” and “scholarship” are often used interchangeably, but they are distinct forms of financial aid. Grants are typically offered by federal institutions, and the awards are often based on demonstrated financial need. Grant awards are “free” money in the sense that they do not need to be repaid, but they may come with some stipulations, such as maintaining certain academic standards or completing a research project. The application and evaluation process for grants are typically quite extensive, although grants awards tend to be for higher amounts.
If you or your family have been planning for your higher education costs for a while, you may have a significant amount in savings. In the United States, residents also have access to 529 College Savings Plans that can be used to stretch your education dollars even further. Plans vary by state, but every state offers at least one plan that can be set up through your preferred financial institution.
This method works best when you start saving early – putting $100 per month into the account from the time you were born until the time you graduated high school, you would have $21,600 saved (not including interest). While this won’t cover the entire cost of your medical education, it can certainly reduce the amount of interest you pay when funding your education through loans.
Student loans are probably one of the most common methods of funding a med school education. Due to rising educational costs, it can be challenging to fund the entire cost of med school out of pocket or with scholarships. Student loans are easy to qualify for, available to almost every student, and can help bridge the gap between your available finances and the actual cost of your education.
However, student loans can be extremely costly over time. Even with interest rates at record low levels for the 2020/2021 school year, using loans can add thousands of dollars to the cost of your education over the standard 20-year repayment period. Furthermore, not all loans are created equally. The average federal student loan interest rate for graduate loans is 4.30%, but some private student loans can charge up to 14.5% interest. If you graduated medical school with the average amount of student loan debt (which is currently $215,900), the interest alone would add approximately $165,000-$240,000 to the cost of your education.
While you may not be able to avoid student loans entirely, you can minimize your student loan debt by utilizing other methods of paying for medical school as much as possible.
Medical School Costs at AUA
To assist students with funding the average cost of medical school, AUA provides students with numerous scholarship and grant opportunities, and qualifying students can use U.S. Department of Education loans to attend with us. Our financial aid office can also assist you with payment plans, multiple payment methods, and options for minimizing fees (such as using a private family health insurance plan). We also partner with many U.S.-based undergraduate institutions to offer affordable med school opportunities from a variety of backgrounds.
You can also contact our Office of Student Financial Services at [email protected] with any other questions regarding your medical school cost at AUA.
Average Cost of Medical School
Before you can decide exactly which methods of funding will be best, you’ll need to know much medical school is per year. Once you know this figure, you can calculate how much funding you’ll need to cover.
According to the AAMC, the cost of tuition, fees and health insurance of attending a public medical school is around $41,438 per year for residents, and $58,246 for non-residents. For private medical schools, that figure comes up to around $61,490 for residents, and $57,619 for non-residents. Tuition and other costs that are reported can greatly vary widely from school to school. Some medical schools build more of the costs into their tuition to keep things simple, while other schools advertise low tuition rates but tack multiple fees on to students’ accounts. Still other schools, like state schools in Texas, charge multiple kinds of tuition with some going to the school and some going to the State Treasury.
With all these different reporting methods, it can be difficult to make an apples-to-apples comparison for your overall cost of medical school. To help, we’ve compiled a list of the average in-state and out-of-state tuition and fee rates at every medical school in the United States. The listed tuition and fee rates are based on a first-year student for Fall and Spring semesters only (not including any optional Summer tuition). Although most medical schools require students to maintain some form of health and/or disability insurance as a student, these rates can vary widely and therefore were not included in our calculations. The calculation of “fees” includes all mandatory student fees, not including insurance or exam fees. Links to additional tuition and fee information for each institution is provided in the table below: