Cornell medical school offers debt-free education for financial aid students

On Sept. 16, 2019, Weill Cornell medical students applaud financial aid that expands the medical school's scholarship programs to provide debt-free education to all medical students. Photo: Weill Cornell Medicine

Cornell University is calling it "transformative" -- a debt-free education for its medical students who qualify for financial aid.

Weill Cornell Medicine Dean, Dr. Augustine M. Choi, announced the new program on Monday, saying it will continue the medical school's tradition that is "dedicated to training outstanding physicians and scientists from all walks of life."

The program will replace student loans with scholarships that cover tuition, housing and other living expenses, according to university officials.

Weill Cornell Medicine estimates the current cost of attendance is $94,206 a year, which includes $58,760 in tuition and $12,544 in rent. 

The university said historically, more than half of its medical students have received need-based scholarships to help defray the costs of attendance and have had to take out loans to cover the difference.

But the new financial aid program will allow all medical students who qualify for aid to avoid having to borrow that money and will have their medical education and all the related expenses including housing and books, covered by scholarships, according to the university. 

Cornell University President Martha E. Pollack applauded the move, describing it as in investment into the country's healthcare system. "This bold initiative to eliminate medical education student debt ensures that every student who wishes to become a doctor can do so—for their betterment and for the patients they serve," Pollack said. "By investing in our medical students, we impart a lasting, positive effect on the healthcare landscape across the country."

The program will go into effect as of the 2019-2020 academic year.

The move comes amid the ongoing debate over the student loan crisis and it follows New York University School of Medicine's announcement last year that it would cover tuition costs for all of its students.