By Elizabeth Wiley, JD, MPH
AMSA Vice President for Internal Affairs
As part of the debt ceiling deal, Congress voted earlier this week to eliminate subsidized Stafford loans for graduate students. By subsidizing in-school interest, Stafford loans have made medical school more affordable for financially eligible students. The elimination of this loan program is projected to cost the average graduate student approximately $7,000. Medical students, however, will be disproportionately affected as our length of training and, therefore, the length of time during which interest accrues and capitalizes is longer than the average graduate student.
As the cost of medical school continues to skyrocket, it is becoming increasingly more difficult for America’s best and brightest students to pursue medicine. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the median annual cost of attendance at public medical schools is nearly $50,000 and more than $66,000 at private medical schools. The average medical student graduates more than $150,000 in debt
This “compromise” represents a blow to the financial accessibility of medical education in the U.S. In addition, when the nation is facing a primary care workforce crisis, it is becoming more difficult for many of us to afford a primary care specialty. Without an adequate pipeline, millions of Americans will be unable to obtain cost-effective preventive and primary care services.
Shifting the costs associated with a politically-motivated debt ceiling compromise to medical students threatens medical school access and affordability. It is extremely disappointing that medical students have become caught in the political crossfire.