Columbia University's medical school offers debt-free degrees
This scholarship initiative could help you fulfill your medical potential. Source: Hush Naidoo/Unsplash

Always dreamed of completing medical school in the US but not sure how you’d afford it?

Well, here’s an opportunity: Columbia University’s medical school is reportedly replacing all student loans with non-repayable scholarships to help you achieve your career goals.

International students need at least one year of premedical training at a US institution to apply to Columbia’s medical school. With the new scholarships, further medical training would be more affordable for the cohort.

The new initiative will replace loans for those eligible for financial aid with scholarships to cover basic needs and tuition costs. Currently, about half of medical students receive financial aid at the school, and 20 percent of students are estimated to receive full tuition scholarships.

Along with high tuition fees and expensive living costs, international students also often contest with the strong US dollar bringing their spending power down and potentially lowering graduate earnings in their home country if they don’t manage to score an H-1B visa after graduation.

The new scheme will be particularly beneficial to them as they can graduate with a smaller financial burden and focus on their career – instead of on paying off debt.

“Having a scholarship fund of this magnitude puts our medical school within reach of the most talented students, regardless of their ability to pay,” Lee Goldman, MD, the dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine and chief executive of Columbia University Irving Medical Center said in a press release.

“In addition, this scholarship program will allow our students to choose a medical specialty based on their true passion and highest calling, rather than on income potential.”

In 2016, nearly 73 percent of students at private medical schools graduated with an average of US$190,000 worth of debt.

Some medical students at Columbia will now be eligible for up to US$30,000 in non-repayable scholarships thanks to a US$150 million investment from Dr. P. Roy and Diana Vagelos – who the medical school is named after – as well as from other generous donations from alumni, faculty, and friends.

The scholarship scheme allows students to pursue their medical passion. Source: Rawpixel/Unsplash

“They [Roy and Diana Vagelos] understand that ensuring a Columbia education is affordable and accessible to the widest diversity of students, regardless of their family’s income, is essential to our mission,” said Goldman in the press release.

Dr Vagelos, meanwhile, said: “The amount of loans that students are taking on in order to attend medical school is tremendous, and we’re seeing too many students lean away from less lucrative medical specialties, such as primary care, pediatrics, or medical research, simply because they are facing a mountain of student loans they have to repay.  

“If we can change that for our students, I think we will have accomplished something important for them as individuals, and ultimately for the field of medicine.”

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