For many students, finding the medical schools with best financial aid is a crucial aspect of their medical school journey. With medical school tuition being so expensive, many students wonder how to pay for medical school. The good thing is, medical schools are aware of the prohibitive expenses of pursuing a medical education, and want to attract talented, motivated students, no matter their financial background. To that end, they provide numerous financial aid avenues to help students pay for med school.
In this blog, we’ll provide a list of the schools with the best financial aid in the US and Canada. We’ll also discuss how financial aid works for med schools, and the key factors that determine how much financial aid a medical school offers you.
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Medical schools with best financial aid packages are often at the top of students’ “dream medical schools” list, and it’s clear why! The simple fact is, when you consider tuition, cost of living, fees, textbooks, and other expenditures, the overall cost of medical school is extremely high, especially for students who are from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
Let’s consider the average statistics – as per the latest AAMC data, the median tuition is $45,924 for in-state students and $58,887 for out-of-state students in the US. And according to the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada (AFMC), the average tuition for medical programs in Canada is $16,798 per year. When you add in all the other costs we mentioned earlier, including the cost of living, you end up with an average total expenditure of $101,835 for each year of medical school. AAMC reports confirm that the average graduating debt for medical students in the US is around USD $207,00, while in Canada, according to AFMC, it’s CAD $100,000.
When you look at these numbers, it’s not surprising that until very recently, the majority of doctors came from affluent and privileged backgrounds. As shown by another AAMC report, the average family household income of matriculating medical students is USD $100,000 and most of them have parents who completed college.
In an ideal world, students would only apply to medical schools that are a good fit for them in terms of the curriculum, campus life, training opportunities, research facilities, faculty, school mission, etc. But the reality, especially for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, is that the financial aid the school provides is also a major factor in deciding which program to select. Instead of looking at the schools they want to attend, they tend to look for the cheapest medical schools, even though they might not be the best fit for them.
The good news is things are slowly improving for the better as the medical community recognizes these inequalities and attempts to address them through concrete programs and directives. Today, almost all medical schools provide a number of different financial aid options to make medical education accessible to all students and to attract the most talented students irrespective of their background. Enterprising students can mitigate some or even all of their graduating indebtedness by doing their due diligence about the available financial aid options.
Check out our video about the total cost of medical school:
Medical School with Best Financial Aid in the US
Below, we’ve listed the top 20 schools with the best financial aid in the US.
Please note that this list not ranked, though we’ve started with the schools that provide aid to 100% of their students and then go on down to other schools.
Medical School with Best Financial Aid in Canada
These are medical schools with the best financial aid packages in Canada:
University of Toronto Temerty Faculty of Medicine
McGill University Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
University of British Columbia Faculty of Medicine
Queen's University Faculty of Health Sciences
University of Calgary Cumming School of Medicine
Memorial University of Newfoundland Faculty of Medicine
In general, medical schools in Canada offer more affordable tuition and cheaper overall medical school costs as compared to the US, especially for Canadian students. Though the tuition for international students is generally higher, it’s still affordable compared to many medical schools in the US. The reason for this low-cost medical education is that in Canada, the government subsidizes the cost of public medical schools by offering lower tuition rates as well as low or no interest rate loans, in an attempt to fulfill their physician shortage. The subsidies and grants are funded by tax-payer money and hence almost always targeted at Canadian student i.e., citizens and permanent residents, to encourage them to pursue medicine.
Loans are provided at the federal and provincial level and the amount provided can vary from school to school, depending on the location. Most of these loans do not start accumulating interest until after you graduate, and you also get tax credits for loan repayments – another reason why medical school graduating indebtedness is lower in Canada than the US. Many schools also provide scholarships and bursaries for varying amounts, to help benefit students belonging to specific groups, such as indigenous students, black students, women, and so on.
Additionally, Canada offers a number of repayment assistance programs for medical school loans, in exchange for commitment to specific types of service, for instance, taking up family medicine, working in remote or rural areas, and so on.
What is Medical School Financial Aid?
Medical schools in the US and Canada generally offer a variety of funding opportunities for students, including need-based institutional aid, federal loans, need-based grants, and meritorious medical school scholarships. There are also several scholarships, grants, loans, and subsidies that are targeted for students belonging to specific groups or communities.
To make the process of applying for financial aid easier, most schools in the US use the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application process. This is used for all kinds of educational funding, including medical school. FAFSA has specific criteria to determine your need-based eligibility for federal, state, and local government student loans, as well as other financial aid, such as the school-specific loans, grants, and scholarships. All medical schools have an office or department dedicated to financial aid and they coordinate your application. Based on the information you provide, they will consider you for all the “official” financial aid options including federal and institutional funding, based on your calculated need.
Note that FAFSA doesn’t always include every school scholarship or grant and it’s your responsibility to find out about the application process for all the funding opportunities you are eligible for and want to apply to. For instance, grants funded by an external organization in associated with the school may have a separate application process. In addition to your FAFSA application, you may also be asked to submit supplemental applications for school-specific financial aid which includes your parental/family income statement and other personal details.
So how much of your medical school costs will be covered via these financial aid options? The specific amount covered can vary – from small grant amounts to complete fee waivers, from full scholarships including cost of living stipends to loans that cover tuition and supplies only. Most students avail a combination of various funding sources which constitutes their “financial aid package” to pay for medical school.
These are most common components of a medical school financial aid package:
It’s worth noting that even with respect to need-based financial funding, there are usually requirements around maintaining a minimum GPA and decent academic performance to be eligible for aid.
Here are some helpful tips to help you cover medical school costs and repay your loans:
Factors That Determine Financial Aid
Private vs Public Medical Schools
The financial aid packages a school provides is often determined by their status as a private or public school. The reason is simple: public medical schools generally receive additional funding from the government (usually the state government) and can pass on the benefit of that funding by subsidizing tuition or offering grants/loans for students. Private medical schools generally charge more tuition as they don’t have access to these funding avenues.
Having said that, remember that these financial benefits of attending a public medical school accrue most often for in-state students, which we’ll explore in further detail below. As an out-of-state medical student at a public school, you may end up paying the same amount or more as you would at a private institution. Moreover, the most prestigious schools such as Ivy League medical schools, attract funding from a variety of sources including affluent donors, corporate sponsors, alumni organizations, and so on. That makes it easier for them to provide funding options for all their students and thus attract the best and brightest talent from the next crop of aspiring medical students.
As we mentioned above, many schools, especially public schools or state schools that receive government funding, offer cheaper tuition and numerous funding options for in-state or in-province students. They restrict the eligibility for their loans and grants to include only local students, since it’s the taxes of local residents funding the financial aid. Students are often attracted to public schools that offer financial aid to a high percentage of in-state students and have very low graduating indebtedness, such as medical schools in Texas, but remember that the majority of their beneficiaries are local students and if you’re an out-of-state applicant, you won’t be eligible for their financial aid options and may also find it much harder to even be accepted.
School Mission and Values
Some medical schools offer federally-funded scholarships and full tuition waivers for students who commit to specific service objectives. This includes:
- Military programs such as the Health Professions Scholarship Program that offers a full scholarship in exchange for 3 years’ service commitment
- Religious schools that require a commitment to missionary work
- Publicly funded programs that ask students to serve rural or remote populations, for example, the National Health Service Corps Program that asks for 2 years commitment as a primary care physician in areas with physician shortages
- State schools that require a commitment to serving the local community
Schools affiliated with such programs may offer excellent financial aid packages and cover almost all their students’ financial commitments, but you should be aware of the specific service requirements and consider whether they match with your needs and talents before committing to them.
Check out this infographic:
Percentage of Loans vs Scholarships/Grants
Not all forms of financial aid are created equal – some are preferable to others! Another factor for students to consider is what percentage of the financial aid offered by the school is in the form of grants and scholarships (which do not have to be paid back) and what percentage is in loans (which will eventually have to be paid back). Some schools don’t offer financial aid to a very large percentage of their students, but what they do offer is mostly in the form of scholarships, making their graduating indebtedness figures much lower than the national average. This is especially true with prestigious, elite schools that offer numerous merit-based scholarships such as the Pritzker School of Medicine, Mayo medical school, Duke University School of Medicine, Emory, Vanderbilt. At these schools, typically, all applicants are considered for the merit based scholarships and the selection factors are the same as med school admission selection factors.
So, if you’re looking to graduate with the least amount of debt, it might be worthwhile considering schools that offer numerous merit-based scholarships. In fact, some schools offer total tuition waivers for majority of their students! University of Central Florida College of Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College, Kaiser Permanente Medical School, and NYU Grossman School of Medicine are among the universities that have, in recent years, chosen to offer completely debt-free medical education for almost all their students. These schools are pioneering a trend towards replacing loans with scholarships to help reduce the financial stress on young physicians.
All medical schools determine a specific Cost of Attendance or COA, which is the maximum amount of medical school funding you can receive from any source including external scholarships and funding. Obviously, medical schools located in urban areas will have a higher COA than those located in rural or remote areas.
Some schools that are located in areas with a high cost of living – such as medical schools in New York or medical schools in California – offer additional financial aid options to help cover the additional costs that accrue due to high rent, expensive transport, etc. It’s important to consider this factor when determining how much financial aid a school is offering. For example, even though NYU Grossman School of Medicine offers a full tuition waiver for all students, due to the high cost of living New York, you may still end up paying more for med school at NYU than a school in a rural area like New Mexico which only offers partial scholarship options.
1. Do public schools offer more financial aid than private schools?
Public schools receive funding from government sources and use this additional funding to offer more financial aid options to students. However, since government funding is sourced from local tax-payers, these funds are used primarily to benefit in-state students.
2. Which medical schools subsidize education for in-state students?
Many public schools and state schools subsidize education for in-state medical students. This can be in the form of lower tuition fees, as well as loans and grants available only for in-state students. Medical schools in Canada also offer lower tuition for Canadian students (citizens and permanent residents) and provide federal loans as well as province-specific funding for medical school tuition and costs.
3. Which medical schools offer a full tuition waiver?
New York University Grossman School of Medicine and Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine are two top medical schools that offer full tuition scholarships for all students. Additionally, other schools such as Weill Cornell Medical College, University of Central Florida College of Medicine, and Kaiser Permanente Medical School offer numerous full tuition scholarships to benefit their students. To confirm tuition waivers for the latest batch of matriculating students, you should check the financial information page of the schools you’re applying to.
4. Which medical schools offer the most amount of financial aid?
New York University Grossman School of Medicine, University of Central Florida College of Medicine, and Kaiser Permanente Medical School in the US and University of Toronto Temerty Faculty of Medicine, McGill University Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, and University of British Columbia Faculty of Medicine in Canada offer the best financial aid packages for students. You can check out our complete list in the sections above.
5. How can I pay for medical school?
There are numerous funding avenues open to medical students. You can apply to the financial aid department of the school you’re attending for loans, grants, and scholarships from a variety of sources. That includes federal loans, institutional grants, merit-based scholarships, bursaries, etc. You can also opt for external scholarships and loans to augment your financial aid.
6. How do I apply for financial aid as a medical student in the US?
You need to use the FAFSA application via the financial aid office of your chosen medical school. You may have to submit additional documents about your economic background and family income to prove your eligibility. You will automatically be considered for all the “official” financial aid options, but you might have to apply individually for other scholarships and specific grants.
7. What is the average cost of medical school?
As per our calculations, the average total cost of medical school including tuition, cost of living, and other expenses, is USD $101,835 per year or USD $407,340 for all four years of medical school.
8. How can I minimize my medical school debt?
To minimize your medical school debt, you can apply strategically to medical schools that not only fit with your career ambitions but also align with your financial goals. For instance, consider state schools that might benefit you as a local student, or private schools offering scholarships or tuition waivers for students of your background. Next, you can consider taking up service commitments that align with your personal skills and interests in exchange for tuition waivers. Finally, make sure you research every funding opportunity available to you, including scholarships, grants, and low-interest loans, and apply to every scholarship well before the application deadlines. There are numerous ways to fund your medical degree – you just need to find them!
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