How to Go to Medical School for FreeAugust 4, 2021
If you dream of becoming a doctor, you’re likely researching your medical school options. As you learn about different programs, you may be shocked by their prices. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the median cost of four years of medical school for the class of 2019 was $250,222 at public universities and $330,180 at private schools.
To cover the staggering cost, the majority of students borrow money. The AAMC reported that 73% of medical school graduates have student loan debt, and the median balance was $200,000 as of 2019.
If you’re trying to figure out how to get med school paid for, there are some free med school programs, tuition incentive programs, and other resources to make your education more affordable.
How to Go to Medical School for Free
Free med school may sound like a fantasy, but some programs do exist. There are also state and federal incentive programs that might cover some or all of your tuition. Here are three ways to go to medical school without taking on debt:
1. Attend a University That Operates a Free Med School Program
There are a few free medical schools in the U.S. These universities provide tuition-free programs to eligible students.
- Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine: Kaiser is waiving tuition for all medical students entering in the fall of 2020 through 2024. The waiver will apply to all four years of attendance — a savings of over $54,000 per year. Students are still responsible for their living expenses and registration deposits.
- Weill Cornell Medicine: Students with financial need as determined by their Free Application for Federal Student Aid can qualify for grants that cover up to 100% of the total cost of attendance at Weill Cornell Medicine.
- Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis: Washington University launched a new scholarship program that will allow approximately half of its medical school students to attend tuition-free. Many other students will receive reduced tuition.
Contact prospective universities’ financial aid departments to see if they offer similar programs to incoming med school students.
2. Search for State Tuition Incentive Programs
To address the shortage of medical professionals, some states offer tuition incentive programs. They’ll give you a loan that covers the cost of some or all of your education; If you complete a service commitment and work in a designated high-need area, the state will forgive some or all of the loan.
- Arkansas: The Arkansas Rural Practice Scholarship allows students to borrow up to $16,500 per year in exchange for a promise to practice primary care in a medically underserved community. For each year that you fulfill that promise, the state will forgive one year of loans.
- New Mexico Loan-for-Service: In New Mexico, medical school students can receive up to $25,000 per year to pay for their education. For each year they work as health professionals in a designated shortage area, the state will forgive one year of loans. If the entire service agreement is fulfilled, New Mexico will discharge 100% of the debt.
If you’re wondering how to go to medical school for free, your state education agency may be an excellent resource.
3. Apply for Federal Incentive Programs
The federal government has some programs that may help you with the cost of medical school. With these programs, qualifying applicants can receive money in exchange for agreeing to practice in rural, urban, or tribal communities.
- Indian Health Service (IHS) Scholarship Program: Under the IHS scholarship program, qualified American Indian and Alaskan Native students enrolled in an eligible health professional degree program can receive an award that covers their tuition and fees. It also provides a monthly stipend for living expenses. The program requires a full-time service commitment, and students must agree to practice in designated areas.
- National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Scholarship Program: The NHSC scholarship program provides funding for the student’s tuition, fees, reasonable educational costs, and a monthly stipend. The program requires a two-year service commitment.
The AAMC database lists hundreds of federal, state, and private programs that assist with medical school costs.
Other Ways to Pay for Medical School
If you’re ineligible for one of the free medical schools in the U.S. or federal or state assistance programs, you can still explore several options to get help paying for medical school.
Aid That Doesn’t Have to Be Repaid
There are forms of financial aid that, unlike student loans, don’t have to be repaid.
- Scholarships and grants: Scholarships and grants are types of gift aid awarded by schools, private companies, and non-profit organizations to eligible students. For example, the Physicians of Tomorrow provides medical students approaching their final year of school with $10,000 scholarships.
- Work-study programs: Your university may participate in a federal or state work-study program that connects students with financial need with part-time jobs related to their fields. Your earnings from that job can be used to pay for some of your education expenses. For example, the University of Minnesota has a work-study program for medical school students at its Twin Cities campus, but students are responsible for securing positions on their own.
If you have to cover the cost of medical school yourself and are trying to learn how to get med school paid for, student loans can be useful. With federal or private student loans, you can borrow money to pay for school and repay it after you graduate.
With federal loans, you may be eligible for Direct Unsubsidized Loans or Grad PLUS Loans. However, Unsubsidized Loans have limits on how much you can borrow, and PLUS Loans can have high interest rates and fees.
While private student loans have fewer repayment options and don’t offer federal loan benefits, borrowers with good credit — or that have a cosigner that meets the eligibility requirements — may qualify for loans with lower interest rates than they’d get with federal loans. And, repayment terms can be as long as 20 years, making your payments more affordable as you build your career.
Shopping for Student Loans
Students often ask about how to go to medical school for free. While there are some free med school opportunities, they are limited in number, and not all students will qualify for them. Instead, you can use state and federal programs as well as student loans to pay for school.
If you decide to take out private student loans, you can get a rate quote from ELFI with the Find My Rate tool.*