U of Arizona Offers Free Med School Tuition for Primary Care

Marcia Frellick

December 06, 2019

The University of Arizona (UA) Colleges of Medicine in Tucson and Phoenix will offer free tuition starting in the spring semester for qualifying medical students to boost the primary care workforce in underserved communities in the state.

Students must agree to practice primary care in a federally designated underserved community in Arizona for at least 2 years after their residency.

Arizona currently meets only 40% of its primary care physician (PCP) need, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration. Arizona ranks 42nd among states for total active PCPs at 77.9 per 100,000 (the US average is 91.7) according to the university's physician workforce report published in October.

"Arizona needs nearly 600 primary care physicians today, and the number is expected to grow to more than 1900 by 2030," Michael D. Dake, MD, senior vice president for UA Health Sciences, said in a press release.

The two colleges are the only two designated medical schools in the state.

To be considered for free tuition, applicants must be an Arizona resident and current full-time medical student enrolled in one of the UA Colleges of Medicine.

The minimum commitment of 2 years practicing in an underserved Arizona community must be started within 6 years of graduation from medical school and completed within 10 years of graduation.

The money will come from part of the $8 million annual funding approved by the Arizona Legislature in May. According to the press release, nearly 100 students or about 10% of the student body could get free tuition at the two medical schools.

In addition to building up the state's primary care workforce, the waived tuition is meant to reduce financial barriers to even applying to medical school with the looming promise of student debt.

Nearly half of medical school graduates owe more than $200,000 in medical school loans, according to the latest Medscape Residents Salary and Debt Report.

Medscape Medical News has reported on several other medical schools that are waiving tuition, including New York University, which is offering free tuition to all current and future medical students; the University of Houston's new College of Medicine, where all 30 medical students in the inaugural class will receive free tuition when the school opens in the fall of 2020; Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine in Pasadena, California, which announced in February that it will waive tuition for all 4 years for the school's first five classes starting in summer of 2020; and Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City, which is waiving tuition for all students who qualify for financial aid beginning as of the current 2019-2020 academic year.

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