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Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine to go tuition-free for first 5 years

by Thomas Dworetzky , Contributing Reporter
Kaiser Permanente's new School of Medicine has announced that tuition will be free for its first five classes.

“We are thrilled to let you know that the School will waive all tuition and fees for the entering classes of 2020 through 2024,” the school stated on its website.

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The tuition waiver will cover the full 4 years of enrollment, according to the school. “We know that medical school is expensive and that debt can impact students’ future career choices and also the type or location of their clinical practice,” it said, adding that, “Our hope is to minimize those concerns for our students.”

Students will still be responsible for living expenses and the $100 deposit required for accepted student registration, although for those with “demonstrated financial need,” the school will provide “substantial grant aid” to help cover living costs.

Living costs are estimated to run about $34,500 a year. Annual health coverage of another $6,500 will also be waived.

“Even middle-class families are finding medical school hard to pay for,” said the school's Founding dean and chief executive, Mark Schuster, told the New York Times, advising that, “we’re going to see how this plays out and learn from it.”

The plan is to start accepting applications in June with the school, which is now set to start in the summer of 2020, according to the paper, gets its funding from Kaiser Permanente itself, rather than raising money from outside.

The class size will be just 48 students – smaller than a typical school – and will focus its training on the Kaiser Permanente integrated care model, which takes a team approach to treating patients.

While it is too soon to call tuition-free medical school a trend in the U.S., the Kaiser Permanente move comes on the heels of NYU's announcement in August, 2018, that it had begun offering full-tuition scholarships to all current and future students in its M.D. degree program regardless of need or merit.

“Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of our trustees, alumni, and friends, our hope – and expectation – is that by making medical school accessible to a broader range of applicants, we will be a catalyst for transforming medical education nationwide,” Kenneth G. Langone, chair of the board of trustees of NYU Langone Health, said at the time.

Langone, and his wife Elaine, amassed a $3.5 billion fortune from co-founding Home Depot, according to Forbes. They've given $100 million to fund the new tuition offer, which comes with a $600 million price tag.

The unusual offer is covering the $55,018 annual tuition costs at the institution.

“This decision recognizes a moral imperative that must be addressed, as institutions place an increasing debt burden on young people who aspire to become physicians,” added Dr. Robert I. Grossman, the Saul J. Farber Dean of the NYU School of Medicine, and CEO of NYU Langone Health.

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