NPR Story on Cost of Medical School

Link To NPR Story on Medical School Costs March 9th

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A New Jersey family is struggling to pay for their daughter's medical school education. They know that the average doctor graduates with about $150,000 of student loans, and wonder how they're ever going to pay it.

I listened to this news clip a few hours ago. I’ve always been concerned about cost but had calculated that it would be manageable. However, at 8.5% interest, things kinda get out of hand! As a CA resident (currently) I have to consider the possibility of OOS tuition, given that I may not make it into a CA school. And several of the DO schools are private institutions with tuition alone averaging 35K a year, and probably 40K by the time I get there. Add in living expenses, and the annual cost has the potential to top 55K a year.

In addition, I was seriously pondering Antman’s recent post “Why not rush” and thinking about a full-time post-bacc at an additional 40-60K. It adds up to around 300K, and this is both scary and sobering IF we’re talking about repayment on a family physician’s income. However, loan repayment via NHSC can reduce the financial sting quite a bit, so there are options.

Since I’m not even enrolled in pre-req classes, all this just amounts to speculation and castle building on my part, but it’s interesting to crunch the numbers…

Ugly though it may be, the fact is that 8.5% is not a bad loan rate, and not significantly worse than some of the student loans I had 15 to 20 years ago at 8%.

Dull (by the way have you seen my pic!)

Good analysis. The part I have a problem with is how to sink 50K in pre-reqs or so, without even being sure to make in med school. If you do, then down the road the salary will be alright to repay, but if you don’t?

Personally, I think that a few hundreds k for med school is not too bad if you make it. I mean you will repay without a doubt. But you have to set yourself straight and make sure you will get to the finish line. Finally, you have to make sure you won’t get sued anytime soon after your starting date.

I was thinking that MDs and DOs were overpaid. When all this is taken into consideration (cost of school and of potential bankruptcy if you get sued ruining years of your life), I think that the salary is not that high after all. Barely enough to justify the plunge.

I listened to the NPR bit. Sorry, but I just don’t get all the complaining about high tuition or the outrage over loan costs, as if medical students are victims. I feel lucky and privileged to live in a country that is willing to back me in my pursuit of my goals. I am not entitled to a medical education, and the institutions that provide such educations and all those who work in those institutions do not exist just to teach me for free. Nor am I in a position to demand what someone else should charge for something I want. I have the option to do something else. There is a reason medical school is expensive – because it is valuable.

I have a friend whose parents are able to pay for his school. I will be getting loans. This does not feel unfair whatsoever. His father worked very hard to be in a position to help his son - I find that admirable and something to aspire to myself. I am not entitled to the same kind of generosity from perfect strangers (the tax payers via government or the free labor of the medical school staff) just because I was born. I am however, very grateful that there is a path for someone like me to follow his dreams and realize his potential; I am thankful I can get government backed loans at below market costs (subsidized by hardworking tax payers who are no-doubt unwillingly sacrificing a small piece of their own children’s financial security to secure mine). I think a thank you will do nicely - not whining.

I feel so honored and lucky to be able to participate in such an amazing thing as going to medical school that I want to jump out of my seat sometimes. I don’t care if it costs me a billion dollars - if someone is going to let me in, and someone is willing to lend me the money to do it, I’m there - and I’m happy and grateful. I have faith that what I’m getting is more valuable that what I’m giving up (in every way) or I wouldn’t be doing it. Besides with a %15 yearly salary limit on repayment requirements, how much trouble could I get myself into?

I didn’t hear the NPR clip yet, but I was wondering about the feasiblilty of the NHS loan repayment programs. I don’t know anyone who has done it, but just glancing at their website, it looks like a nice option for those willing to give back a little by working in an underserved area. It looks like they have locations everywhere in the US and if I understood correctly, they would pay back 50k for every 2years of service with the option of additional years of service. This is very attractive to me as I will probably have to go down this route myself. Does anyone have any experience on this?

Redo: Yes, I noted your new profile pic. Good one. How to justify dropping 50K on pre-reqs? It’s an investment in yourself, and like all investments, there’s risk. That’s my take.


This year has been a great year for me so far because I am virtually debt free (except for my house and car). No students loans, maybe 140 dollars on credit cards right now and that’s it. And I have suffered so much for the past two years repaying my debts. I have two kids now and I am very scared when it comes to take on any debt. I would take on some in a heart beat if I was 100% that I could get in Med School. But now, it is just too long of a shot. I will take the MCAT in Jan, so the score will also be important. By the way, I am starting to shadow an ophthalmologist this week, so I am set up for the course (I won a $20K challenge for proposing a method to follow up the retina during treatments, that’s partly how my debt was repaid).

I am just scared and nervous about debt at this point. This is a big issue because I can’t take my pre-reqs as fast and then my application is delayed again and again. But sending two kids to day care alone would equate to close to 20K a year. Add the tuition (assuming that we can cope with current expenses. Just too much. I couldn’t sleep. In business school (to which I went to get a useless $60,000 MBA), they say that you have a choice: “sleep well or eat well”. After these past two years, I guess I am quite happy with starving a bit.

(And thanks for the pic, I laughed when I first saw it, that’s why I picked it).

The professors who I have talked to about the med school all say, don’t worry about the cost, there are always ways to get it paid off after school. Basically, if you are willing to work it off somewhere that may not be your first choice in life someone will pay it off for you. I think most who complain about the loans they are left with are those who didn’t want to go that route. I am sure there are plenty of good reasons why (ie family, career goals, life style) but those are choices folks have to make. I can’t fault them for it but I also can’t really sympathize too much, I mean they are getting to live their dreams and sometimes that costs a little more than just going the easy route and woprking in a cubicle.

I think it’s all a matter of perspective. In trying to decide on which school I am going to and how much $$$ should be a factor, I have asked a lot of different people for input. Here is the trend I have noticed:

-Premeds & med students “$ is all that matters”

-Residents & younger attendings “give the $ serious consideration”

-Older docs “the $ should not even be a factor, you will have a high enough salary that $ won’t be an issue”

I remember graduating undergrad with 70k of debt and feeling like it was the weight of the world on my chest. 3 yrs later it was paid off and I wondered why I had worried so much about it. I am hoping it will be the same with med school. Do you think this discrepancy is due only to time since being in debt or could it also be due to decreasing physician salaries???

Also, take note that the NPR show was in reference to BU, one of the most expensive MD schools in the country with the poorest scholarship endowment.


I think like AntMan said it is all matter of perspective. My first dream is not medicine but my wife and kids, medicine comes just after (very very very very close). Yet, the question is how selfish should I be in the pursuit of my dreams? How miserable can I make my family(and how can I handle seeing them like this)?.

Sure, the money is not an issue IF you make it in and out. But if you don’t, then it is a huge problem and that’s the issue I have. Like I said, knowing that I can get in, I could borrow right away. Not knowing is just hard. If and when I get accepted, then for sure, I won’t have any problem borrowing and applying myself to the task (with pride and joy!).

Also as noted by AntMan, BU is likely one of the most expensive schools out there, and Boston is a city where life is very expensive (I have lived there for 2 years, that’s where I got my MBA). I am fortunate to live in Texas, perhaps a state where the med school quality/cost ratio is one of the best in the US. I mean tuition for in state amount to barely 15K a year and cost of living is quite cheap in comparison with the coasts. TX residents that go to state school end up ON AVERAGE with about 75K of debt which is minimal, really. As far as my applications, I will apply to all schools in TX and a few elsewhere but cost will be my primary concern.

So I am hopeful, but I can tell you right now that had I been in California or Massachusetts, I wouldn’t even consider goint to Med School. At least I would move before seriously thinking about it.

If it isn’t the love of your life, then you can be easily put off by the cost. If you really want it, you will find a way to pay. I know this is strange, but, thank goodness it is expensive, otherwise there would be a billion MORE people applying.

Show me an investment where you can put in $200k and get back at least that much every year for the rest of your life (even if you only net 1/2 that, it’s still a great investment: better than housing, better than the market etc) - Most small business owners would be happy to get half that in their pocket after investing $200k and many hours building the business. That’s the way I look at it, anyway.

I completely agree. Intentional or not, the sheer cost of medical school has become a major deterrent to those who might casually entertain the idea of trying to become a physician.

On another note, I’m strongly considering becoming a family practice doc in rural Nebraska, where I’m from. I’ve had contact with two family practice doctors in rural areas, and both are having their loans paid off by their employers because they are working in rural areas, which have trouble attracting family physicians in Nebraska. Apparently, such arrangements are common.