Weill Cornell Jumps on Free Medical School Tuition Bandwagon

Megan Brooks

September 17, 2019

Weill Cornell Medicine, in New York City, has announced a new scholarship program that will eliminate medical education debt for all students who qualify for financial aid beginning with the 2019–2020 academic year, according to a school news release.

First-year students in Weill Cornell Medicine's class of 2023, who entered this fall, and those in every subsequent entering class will have their student loans replaced by scholarships for their entire education.

Returning students who are eligible for financial aid and who matriculated prior to this year will receive scholarships that will replace their loans for this year and their remaining years as Weill Cornell Medicine medical students, the school said.

By replacing student loans with scholarships that cover tuition, housing, and other living expenses, the program ensures that all students, including those from economically diverse backgrounds, can pursue a career in medicine without financial burden, Weill Cornell said in the news release.

"This program empowers students to ultimately focus their careers on their interests and talents, rather than the requisite future salaries to repay their loans," the organization said.

"This bold initiative to eliminate medical education student debt ensures that every student who wishes to become a doctor can do so — for their betterment and for the patients they serve. By investing in our medical students, we impart a lasting, positive effect on the healthcare landscape across the country," Cornell University President Martha Pollack said in the release.

The program is being funded through $160 million in gifts from the Starr Foundation and Maurice and Corinne Greenberg, Joan and Sandy Weill, the Weill Family Foundation, and other donors and alumni. To ensure this program continues in perpetuity, the institution will need to raise additional money to fully fund its scholarship endowment.

Historically, more than half of Weill Cornell Medicine's medical students have received need-based scholarships, which average around $90,000 a year. Federal loans have covered the difference. With the new financial aid program, all medical students who qualify for aid will have their tuition, books, housing, food, and related expenses paid for through scholarship money.

Through a separate program, students pursuing dual MD/PhD degrees receive full tuition and stipends for living expenses from the National Institutes of Health and Weill Cornell Medicine. Together, these two programs will enable two thirds of Weill Cornell Medicine's medical student body to graduate without debt, the school said.

Weill Cornell Medicine joins a growing number of medical schools offering free tuition. Those schools include the following: Ohio's Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University; Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and New York University School of Medicine, both in New York City; the University of California, Los Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine; Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri; Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine, Pasadena, California; and the University of Houston College of Medicine in Texas.

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