Medical School Affordability and Student Aid

The Issue

Medical education is an excellent investment. Despite the expense, more and more students choose to pursue a career in medicine so that they can provide patients with the care they need. About three quarters of medical students take on debt in order to finance their education. AAMC data shows that students will graduate from medical school with a median debt level of $200,000. This debt can be compounded by the unique repayment challenges of medical residency training, however data shows that debt does not play a major role in specialty choice for most students.

Institutional aid, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) scholarships and loans, the Department of Education income-driven repayment plans, and other programs can make educational debt more manageable. Programs like these also help ensure that a career in medicine remains affordable, while promoting a diverse and culturally competent health care workforce. As the nation faces growing workforce shortages, programs like Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) and the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) help non-profit and underserved facilities recruit physicians to care for vulnerable patient populations.

The Response

The AAMC works to ensure medical education remains affordable and accessible for students from all backgrounds.

As part of these efforts, the AAMC advocates with partners like the Student Aid Alliance and the Federation of Associations of Schools of Health Professions to improve federal loan, scholarship, and repayment programs. In addition to PSLF and the NHSC, the AAMC endorses the loan repayment programs available through the Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, the Indian Health Service, and multiple branches of the U.S. Military.

As Congress reauthorizes the Higher Education Act, the AAMC seeks to elevate the voice of medical students to advocate for the best possible borrowing and repayment options, including simplifying loan repayment programs, preserving PSLF for graduate and professional students, and retaining GradPLUS to allow medical students to borrow up to the full cost of attendance. A growing list of medical schools are trying to reduce education debt for their graduates. These efforts include targeting gifts towards financial aid, offering loan repayment assistance and reduced tuition in exchange for service, and exploring options for a shortened curriculum.

AAMC also offers a variety of information for applicants, students, and residents through its FIRST program. This includes videos and webinars on subjects such as repaying student loans and managing loans during residency, as well as online resources on paying for medical school.

Related Resources

Analysis in Brief: An Exploration of the Recent Decline in the Percentage of U.S. Medical School Graduates With Education Debt (September 2018)

AAMC Letter to House Committee on Education and the Workforce Regarding PROSPER Act (December 11, 2017)

Medical Student Education: Debt, Costs and Loan Repayment Fact Care 2018 (October 2018)

Medical Student Education: Debt, Costs and Loan Repayment Fact Card 2017 (October 2017)

Repayment Assistance Through Forgiveness, Scholarships, or Service

Income-Driven Repayment Plans and Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Pipeline Programs and System Reform: A Path to Improving Health EquityAAMCNews

Robust Health Professions Pipeline Leads to Improved Public Health, Patient CareAAMCNews

Taking the Sting Out of Medical School DebtAAMCNews

Priming the Medical School Pipeline: Schools Reach Out to Teens in Minority and Underserved CommunitiesAAMCNews

Medical Professionals Across the Country Plan to Help Their Communities With the Help of PSLFAAMC Action

Promoting a Diverse and Culturally Competent Health Care WorkforceAAMC Key Issues