Higher Ed Hidden Gems: Free Medical School


Free rules, especially if we're talking medical school, an experience which leaves graduates with an average $140,000 in debt.

Here are some ways to cut the cost to medical school to zero (or near zero):

1. Look at Brand New Medical Schools
The University of Central Florida College of Medicine, this year awarded its entire inaugural class, a group of 40 students, full scholarships totaling $160,000 each. More than 4,000 students applied, making the acceptance rate one in 100. It may be worth keeping an eye out for other new medical schools slated to launch in the next few years, which may end up being as generous to their inaugural students. The University of California, Riverside is opening up a school of medicine. The school did not confirm any details about whether students would get full scholarships, since the program doesn’t commence until 2012.  “It’s too early to tell,” says UC Riverside spokesperson Kris Lovekin. Virginia Tech and Carilion will create a jointly operated private medical school, located in downtown Roanoke. The inaugural class will be in 2010. And Hofstra University in New York plans to create a new school medical school in the fall of 2011.  

2. Apply for Full Scholarships
Some schools offer above-average full scholarships to medical students. Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, for example, recently awarded 21 full merit-based scholarships to incoming medical students—nearly 20% of its freshman class.  In all, 61% percent of students received financial aid directly from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. At the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University, all 32 freshman students received full scholarships last year.  The program is five years, a year longer than most medical schools because you need to complete the MD and a masters-level thesis.   

3. Consider Government Programs
The Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship Program pays for your tuition, fees, books, plus a monthly stipend through four years of med school. You can be in the Army, Navy or Air Force and doctors usually need to serve one year of active duty for each year of scholarship money, or a minimum of three years. 

The nonprofit National Health Service Corps scholarship program will pay for tuition and living expenses if you want to be a primary care physician. You need to agree to be assigned to a needy area for at least a year for every year you’re on the scholarship. The minimum service obligation is two years. 

If you’re really ambitious and want to get an M.D. and a PhD., consider applying for the National Institutes of Health “Medical Scientist Training Program,” or MSTP, at participating medical schools for a full ride. The MSTP currently has 40 participating programs involving 45 degree-granting institutions with a total of 933 trainees. About 170 positions for new students are available nationwide each year. Included in the scholarship are tuition, a stipend for living expenses and money for travel, equipment and supplies.

4. Also Consider Overseas Programs
The Latin American School of Medicine, based in Cuba, is the largest medical school in the world, with a reported 10,000 to 12,000 students worldwide. Only a fraction of students are American, but everyone gets free tuition, room and board. You also get a small stipend. You need to be under the age of 30 and agree to work in low-income and medically underserved communities in the U.S. upon graduation.

—Catch more of Farnoosh’s advice on Real Simple. Real Life. on TLC, Friday nights at 8.

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