What is the cost of medical schools in the USA?
Medical school has got to be one of the most challenging periods in a doctor’s career. Perhaps, the biggest challenge among everything else is learning where to get the money needed to graduate from medical school! In this post, we’ll be unraveling the true cost of medical schools in USA.
What Is The Average Cost Of Medical Schools?
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), here is the specific breakdown of the average cost of medical schools in USA (includes tuition, fees, and health insurance) for the past ten years:
Table 1. Average Cost of Tuition, Fees, and Health Insurance Per Year, 2010-2020
In 2019-2020, the average cost of getting into medical school for a year at a public medical school was $37,556 for resident or in-state students and $61,858 for non-resident or out-of-state students.
Meanwhile, private schools–regardless if you’re an in-state student or not–impose twice as higher medical school cost than the public medical schools for resident students.
If you’re going to look closely, there’s no huge difference between in-state and out-of-state students admitted to private medical schools.
You would also notice that the average cost of medical schools in USA significantly rises through time. Just five years ago, from $33,895, the average cost increased to $37,556 for a public medical school resident student!
What’s more daunting is that your expenses for medical school don’t just revolve around these three–tuition, fees, and health insurance. These are only your supposed money to get enrolled in medical school.
You still need to consider saving up also for your books, dorm, equipment, supplies, and other essential living expenses. Take note that all of the costs I presented in the previous table are only good for a year.
Why is Medical School So Expensive?
Perhaps you’ve wondered why the cost of medical schools in USA is so expensive compared to other fields out there.
Well, I believe the main reason is–since doctors work on how to save lives by battling death and restoring optimum health–training should be intensive.
From brilliant clinical instructors, state-of-the-art facilities to upgraded technologies, and the long-enduring years of study, all of these justifies the unsettling price that medical schools impose.
Let me give you an estimated direct and indirect costs for each step of the journey:
1. Pre-Med Education
This is the start of the journey and the part of our first investment for medical school.
Colleges and universities rely on tuition, endowment, and government funds to operate. For students enrolled in public colleges, especially in-state students or those who receive government subsidy both for education and research, pay low tuition fees or–if they’re lucky enough–only miscellaneous fees.
Meanwhile, private schools don’t receive any financial support from the government. Hence, their budget to operate fully rely on the students–leading to relatively higher tuition and fees.
Let’s take a sample cost of attendance of an incoming out-of-state freshman living on campus at the Ohio State University:
|Tuition and fees||$33,502|
|Room and board/living||$13,066|
|Books and supplies||$1,082|
Table 2. Estimated and Total Costs of An Incoming Out-of-state Freshman
Multiplying this to 4 years of college, your pre-med education at Ohio State University will more likely cost around $205,928. This is only a sample. Your pre-med costs may be higher or lower than this.
2. Medical Education
Let’s move to the actual game.
Like colleges and universities in your undergraduate education, medical schools may also rely on the three above mentioned sources of income.
Public students, especially in-state ones, get subsidies. Whereas private students do not.
I have given you above the average cost of medical schools in USA for your reference. For the other indirect costs such as living expenses, it deserves another section which I’ll be discussing later on the post.
Though by this time, you’re already a licensed doctor, you’re basically still on training.
Here, the difference is that hospitals pay for your service instead of you who releases out-of-pocket cash. Your salaries and benefits are the hospitals’ direct costs.
And because they don’t want to provide mediocre training in treating patients, hospitals spend a lot to intensify residency training. According to the Alliance for Academic Internal Medicine (AAIM), approximately $51,737 to $79,999 is the cost to train a resident per year.
|Specialization||Cost Per Year||Years|
|General Internist, Pediatrician, Family Physician, or Hospitalist||$550,248||3|
Table 3. Cost To Train A Resident Per Year Based on Specialty
Thus, don’t get surprised at your clinical rotation as a student. The hospitals need such money for their doctors and they would be getting it from the students to compensate.
Take for instance at the Ohio State University Medical Center, rotations may cost first-year interns $51,510 and increase each year so that a fourth year’s expenses are $56,636.
Aside from resident’s salaries and benefits, the hospitals need a budget as well for the salaries for other staff, faculty, and facilities used for teaching.
Rising Cost Of Medical School
Here is the percentage of the average cost increase per year:
Table 4. Percentage of Average Cost Per Year For Public and Private Medical Schools
Despite the notably high tuition and fees, the average cost of medical schools in USA increases every year. And certainly, it will continue to rise for the succeeding years.
In 2019-2020, there was a 2.2% cost increase for public resident students and 1.7% for non-residents. Whereas, 2.7% for private school residents and 2.9% for non-residents.
As I’ve always tried to point out with all the breakdowns, it’s very expensive to train a doctor in the USA. Given the cost of medical schools in USA, it shows how schools and hospitals invest a lot so they won’t end up producing mediocre doctors in the future.
That’s why students are the ones who pay for the intensive training provided.
Equipment upgrades, systems updates, and technologies are getting more advanced each year. You need to pay for the cadaver, facilities, and affiliations with your chosen local hospital.
Knowing the years needed to spend training a medical student from medical school to residency and fellowship, it takes a lot of sweat, knowledge, skills, and cash to produce brilliant ones.
Living Expenses In Medical School
The cost of living in med school varies from one student to another. Some factors may include the state of residency, whether they’re living in or out the campus, type of school, and personal lifestyle.
If you’re living in a cheaper city, attending a public school within that state, and living inside the campus, then your cost of living may be relatively below than others who experienced and selected choices otherwise.
Let’s take again for instance a sample 4-year cost of attendance for a medical student at Ohio State University College of Medicine.
Table 5. Tuition Fees, Academic and Living Expenses Per Academic Year
This is only a sample of your possible living expenses. They may be higher or lower in your actual estimate.
Since the cost of medical schools in USA is undeniably high, most students don’t have other options but to take out loans to compensate for these fees.
However these debts, sometimes become a burden more than an assistance especially when they pile up along with high-interest rates.
The burden of your debt depends also on the types and their corresponding interest rates. If you have availed federal loans, they have relatively lower interest rates compared to private types.
Here are the interest rates for direct loans under federal loan:
|Loan Type||Borrower Type||Fixed Interest Rates|
|Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans||Undergraduate||4.53%|
|Direct Unsubsidized Loans||Graduate or Professional||6.08%|
|Direct PLUS Loans||Parent and Graduate or Professional Students||7.08%|
Table 6. Fixed Interest Rates for Direct Loans Under Federal Loans
All these rates will not change for the entire loan’s lifetime. You may also take a look at my article on med school loans to further have an idea on loans!
Here is a formula you could use to determine the amount of interest that accumulates between monthly payments:
Interest Amount =
(Outstanding Principal Balance × Interest Rate Factor) × Number of Days Since Last Payment
The interest rate factor is the accumulated loan. It is determined by dividing your loan’s interest rate by the number of days in the year.
If you need more information about medical school loans, you can check my video here.
Residency Application Costs
The application process itself includes two fees–ERAS and NRMP. Meanwhile, interview fees are not yet included and vary in different states. If you want to save up for your interview costs, try to check this article.
Your total residency application cost depends on a lot of factors such as the type and number of specialty applications, program rankings, and geographic location. You may use this ERAS Residency Fee Calculator to check your application costs.
Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS)
It provides a centralized and convenient way for applicants to submit their applications and supporting documents and to select their desired program.
|Number of Programs Per Specialty||ERAS fees|
|Up to $10||$99|
|31 or more||$26 each|
Table 7. ERAS Fees Depending on Number of Programs By Specialty
For example you want to take 30 Emergency Medicine programs. That would be:
[$99.00 (first 10)+ (10 x $15.00) (11-20 programs) + (10 x $19.00) (21-30 programs)] = $439
National Resident Matching Program (NRMP)
This is a nonprofit private organization that aids medical students in Graduate Medical Education (GME) training programs in the USA. Below are the fees for the submission of ranked programs and access to data and reports:
|Standard Registration Fee||$85 (up to 20 programs)|
|Additional Programs Ranked||$30 per program code|
Table 8. Cost of Match Fees
Check here how the matching program goes.
Total Residency Application Cost
This is the sum of your application and interview costs to pursue a residency position.
20 Cheapest Medical Schools
According to AAMC, the following are the top 20 cheapest medical schools:
|1. University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine||Public||$17,312||$33,312|
|2. Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine||Public||$18,808||$31,908|
|3. Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Paul L. Foster School of Medicine||Public||$19,568||$32,668|
|4. Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine||Public||$19,724||$32,824|
|5. University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine||Public||$21,087||$34,187|
|6. University of New Mexico School of Medicine||Public||$21,185||$50,170|
|7. The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine||Public||$22,426||$38,298|
|8. The University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School||Public||$23,177||$37,215|
|9. McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston||Public||$23,696||$32,647|
|10. University of Texas Southwestern Medical School||Public||$24,104||$37,204|
|11. University of Texas Medical Branch School of Medicine||Public||$25,557||$40,366|
|12. Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University||Public||$25,859||NA|
|13. Baylor College of Medicine||Private||$27,633||$40,733|
|14. Florida State University College of Medicine||Public||$29,221||$63,773|
|15. Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine||Public||$29,336||$62,120|
|16. San Juan Bautista School of Medicine||Private||$29,665||$37,165|
|17. Louisiana State University School of Medicine in Shreveport||Public||$32,072||$63,894|
|18. University of Central Florida College of Medicine||Public||$32,105||$58,979|
|19. Michigan State University College of Human Medicine||Public||$33,130||$59,884|
|20. University of Oklahoma College of Medicine||Public||$33,458||$66,785|
Table 9. Cheapest Medical Schools Across The U.S.
The cheapest medical school in the U.S. is the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine in which you’re only going to spend $17,312 for a year if you are an in-state student and twice the cost if you’re coming out-of-state.
As you would observe, most of the cheapest medical schools come from Texas. They offer affordable tuition both for residents or not. This is the case simply because they want to cover for the shortage of doctors due to daunting student debts.
Also, if you’re interested in entering private schools instead as you believe in the notion that they could offer more state-of-the-art equipment and facilities at low costs, there are two private medical schools you could try–Baylor College of Medicine and San Juan Bautista School of Medicine. If you’re an in-state, you can get in at less than $30,000.
10 Cheapest Private Schools
|1. Universidad Central del Caribe School of Medicine||$41,062||$49,037|
|2. Ponce Health Sciences University School of Medicine||$43,255||$65,545|
|3. Mercer University School of Medicine||$44,866||NA|
|4. Howard University College of Medicine||$48,470||$48,470|
|5. University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine||$50,449||$50,449|
|6. Morehouse School of Medicine||$50,828||NA|
|7. Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine||$54,675||$54,675|
|8. Medical College of Wisconsin||$55,574||$59,394|
|9. Emory University School of Medicine||$55,782||$55,782|
|10. Rush Medical College of Rush University Medical Center||$55,987||$55,987|
Table 10. Cheapest Private Medical Schools Across The U.S.
If you would notice, I took Baylor College of Medicine and San Juan Bautista School of Medicine off the list since they are already part of the cheapest 20 medical schools in the USA list. So to widen your options, I just provided an additional 10.
Half of these schools have the same tuition and fees cost for all students regardless of residency status:
- Howard University College of Medicine
- University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine
- Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine
- Emory University School of Medicine
- Rush Medical College of Rush University Medical Center
Tuition-Free Medical School List
If you think that it’s impossible to enter med school without spending thousands of dollars, these schools might ask you to think again.
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t have that much cash. I have the list of schools that can grant the dream of every aspiring doctor with the need to worry about their limited financial capacity.
Here the medical schools that offer free tuition in 2019-2020:
1. New York University School of Medicine
In 2018, the New York University School of Medicine started to offer tuition-free education to all aspiring doctors. NYU is one of the largest and most prominent high-ranking medical schools that initiated this program. The reason behind this decision is to help the students be free from heavy debts.
2. Weill Cornell Medicine
Like NYU, Weill Cornell Medical School also wants to help the crisis students have been facing against high loans. They offer full financial support for all medical costs not just for tuition and fees, but also for books, food, accommodation, and other living expenses.
This program is only for those who have proven eligible to receive financial aid.
3. Washington University School of Medicine
The Washington University School of Medicine also offers tuition-free medical education. Earlier, it announced that it will provide free tuition to half of its future students, whereas the other will receive partial support.
Unlike other tuition-free programs primarily funded by donors, WUSM tuition-free program gets its income from its affiliated hospitals and departments. Eligibility depends on financial need and merit.
4. The Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine
The Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine offers a tuition-free program for the 32 eligible students since 2008.
Each, 2,000 applicants are competing for the limited slots. CCLCM aims to spare students from the pressure of long-term loan payment by pursuing academic and research-oriented medicine instead of high-paying specialties.
5. The Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons
The Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons has been offering full scholarships since 2017 which was provided by the Colombia alumnus and former Merck CEO, Roy Vagelos. Another New York-based school, this school covers the tuition of qualified students who availed loans.
6. David Geffen School of Medicine
University of California’s David Geffen School Medicine offers merit-based fully free tuition including other schooling expenses such as books, supplies, and accommodation to almost 20% of each class.
So, that’s it for this post on the true cost of medical schools in USA. I hope this post enlightened you on the financial aspects of medical school and didn’t discourage you from achieving that MD degree. Remember, there are always options for everyone!
If you found this post enjoyable and helpful, check out more of our blog posts!
- How Much Does a Doctor Make?
- My Med School Student Loans
- How Does The Match Work?
- Which Medical School Should I Apply To?
- Getting Into Medical School Tips
- How To Stay Motivated In Med School
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