The Rise of Medical School Debt

From the Summer 2016 edition of Vanderbilt Medicine Magazine

Debt levels for indebted medical school graduates and medical school cost of attendance have both increased faster than inflation over the last 20 years, according to an AAMC report, with 45 percent of graduates owing $200,000 or more in educational debt.

The cost of medical school continues to rise

The price of higher education has grown steeper for all students in recent years, but attending medical school remains the most expensive form of post-secondary education in the United States.

Median annual tuition and fees at U.S. medical schools (2015)

Private Schools $55,259 Public Schools $35,287

Median 4-yr cost of attendance (2015)

Private Schools $306,171 Public Schools $232,838

Medical school students are graduating with unprecedented debt

In the early 1960s, family contributions accounted for 83% of students' total income, and only 31% of students incurred any educational debt, according to the AAMC. By 1984, medical education had become loan dependent, with over 86% of students graduating in debt.

Medical college graduates with pre-med and medical school debt in 2015

Private Schools
78%
Public Schools
83%
Vanderbilt
66%

Mean debt owed by U.S. medical school graduates in 2015

Public and Private $180,723 Vanderbilt $134,376

Physician specialty and debt

Although family physicians are toward the bottom in earnings, there is no obvious relationship between school debt and earnings among other physician groups, according to Medscape.

Percentage of graduating family medicine residents reporting >$150,000 in educational debt
58%
Percentage of emergency medicine and family physicians still paying off school loans
33%
Those least saddled with such debts are gastroenterologists and rheumatologists
16%

Resident stipends have remained fairly stable

The average U.S. resident earned $52,000 in the first year, with salaries increasing to a high of $66,000 by the seventh year. The largest increase was between years 6 and 7.

Estimated resident/fellow stipend

1st-year residency $52,000 2nd-year residency $54,000 3rd-year residency $55,000 4th-year residency $58,000
Sources: Medscape, AAMC
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