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7 Tuition-Free Medical Schools

7 Tuition-Free Medical Schools
Emma Diehl
Emma DiehlUpdated November 14, 2022
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The median amount of debt for medical school graduates in the U.S. is $200,000, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). But you don’t have to owe that much. Tuition-free medical schools allow you to attend medical school without paying tuition. And there are several medical schools with free tuition across the country. Attending a free medical school could mean largely avoiding student debt. However, these programs may come with drawbacks as well as benefits. For instance, tuition-free medical schools can be very competitive. And while some of them are completely cost-free, others may require you to pay certain expenses, such as housing. Read on to learn about 7 tuition-free medical schools in the U.S. and how these programs work. 

Average Cost of Medical School in the U.S.

The AAMC reports that the median cost of four years of medical school is $272,000 in its latest report. The number has been on the rise, year over year, for the past decade. For many students, that means they will be paying off student loans after graduation.With such a high cost of medical school attendance, free tuition could make a significant difference in what a student owes upon graduating.

Average Medical School Graduate Salary in the U.S.

Medical school has a high price tag, which can result in student loan debt, but med school graduates have the opportunity to earn a good salary. On average, primary care physicians earn $260,00 a year, and specialists make about $368,000 yearly. By comparison, the average salary of a graduate with a bachelor’s degree is about $59,000. However, it’s important to keep in mind that medical students require more schooling and accrue more debt, and they start their careers later.

Pros and Cons of Medical School

There are a number of benefits and drawbacks to attending medical school that you should carefully consider before enrolling, including: 
High-earning potentialHigh student debt burden upon graduation
Med school grads are in demand and typically have job securityLengthy education process
Work schedule can be flexible upon graduation, depending on specialtyThe potential for medical malpractice lawsuits
Rewarding job with the opportunity to improve patients’ quality of life and save livesCan be physically, emotionally, and mentally draining
Not everyone is suited to become a medical professional, but for those who are passionate about the job, the benefits could outweigh the drawbacks. And medical scholarships can help cover some of the costs.

7 Medical Schools With Tuition-Free Programs

In response to the rising cost of medical school, and declining enrollment, some universities and colleges started offering free medical school.The following schools ranked at the top of search results for medical schools with free tuition. Here’s what you need to know about each program.

1. New York University (NYU)

NYU’s Grossman School of Medicine offers full-tuition scholarships to all students enrolled in its medical school, regardless of merit or need. However, these scholarships cover the cost of tuition, but not living or educational expenses, which the university estimates to be between $23,000 to $27,00 a year. NYU also fully covers the cost of health insurance for medical school students, which is about $7,200 for the 2022-2023 school year.

2. Columbia

Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons “meets 100 percent of demonstrated financial need with scholarships for all students who qualify.” The school has replaced need-based student loans with scholarships for those who are eligible for financial aid. If a student qualifies, the scholarships cover all of their school needs, from tuition to housing to expenses. About 20% of Columbia students attend the medical school tuition-free. And most students receive some sort of scholarship. 


UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine has been offering tuition-free medical school for some of its students since 2012.The David Geffen Medical Scholarship offers complete financial support for about 20% of each class. The scholarship, which is merit-based, covers everything, including the cost of attendance, room and board, and supplies. The school also offers partial need- and merit-based scholarships. 

4. Washington University in St. Louis

Washington University’s Medical School announced free tuition for up to half its students in 2019.  Washington University awards its scholarships based on a student’s merit and need. The scholarships only covers tuition. However, Washington University has other partial need- and merit-based scholarships available. 

5. Cleveland Clinic

The Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine (CCLMC) of Case Western Reserve University has been offering tuition-free medical school in some form since 2008. All CCLMC students receive admission tuition-free. But the program is competitive. The school estimates that of its 2,000 annual applicants, only 32 are admitted. The free-tuition medical school does come with a catch. Students are expected to stay on for a fifth year to conduct research.  

6. Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine offers tuition-free medical school, for a limited time. In 2019, the school announced it would waive all tuition and fees for its first five graduating classes. Specifically, that refers to classes entering in the fall of 2020 through the fall of 2024. Kaiser Permanente will waive tuition and fees for students over all four years of enrollment. However, this does not include other living expenses or the student registration deposit. Kaiser Permanente estimates that living expenses are $34,500 annually, and the school offers grant aid for students with additional financial needs.  

7. Cornell University

Cornell University’s Weill Department of Medicine announced its free medical school policy in 2019. It covers tuition, housing, and other living expenses.The initiative aims to eliminate students graduating with medical school debt by  replacing need-based student loans with scholarships. Weill Department of Medicine will offer other merit and need-based scholarships in addition to this program. Cornell estimates this policy will impact close to 50% of each class.This chart offers a quick look at what each tuition-free medical school program is based on and who and what it covers:
Basis of ScholarshipSize of ScholarshipScholarship covers all costs?
NYUAdmission into school100% of studentsNo, tuition only
ColumbiaNeed-based20% of studentsYes
UCLAMerit-based20% of studentsYes
Washington UniversityNeed & merit-basedUp to 50% of studentsNo, tuition only
Cleveland ClinicAdmission into school100% of studentsNo, tuition only
Kaiser PermanenteAdmission into school between 2020-2024100% of studentsNo, tuition only
CornellNeed-based50% of students Yes

Is Tuition-Free Medical School Really Free?

While tuition-free initiatives have become more popular at medical schools, no one institution yet covers 100% of the costs of attendance for 100% of students. Many of these programs are need-based to ease the student debt burden post-graduation. Others cover the tuition costs for most students but don’t offer assistance with living expenses.However, these policies may help relieve a big chunk of the financial strain of paying for medical school. And they may help positively affect medical school drop-out rates.

The Takeaway

Medical school in the U.S. is expensive, and scholarships that pay for attendance can be financially helpful in the long run. Colleges across the country now offer tuition-free medical school programs. Very few cover 100% of  a student’s expenses, but many offer need- and merit-based aid that could substantially cut down on the cost of medical school attendance. 

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  1. Refinancing your student loan can lower your monthly payments and help you adjust your loan term. Compare student loan refinancing rates to find a loan that works for you.
  2. Paying extra each month on your student loan can reduce the interest you pay and so lower your total loan cost over time. (The law prohibits prepayment penalties on federal or private student loans.)
  3. If you teach full-time for five complete and consecutive academic years in a low-income school, you may be eligible for federal student loan forgiveness.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there any free medical schools in the United States?
Which countries have free medical schools?
Is NYU's medical school free to attend?
Photo credit: iStock/Wavebreakmedia

About the Author

Emma Diehl

Emma Diehl

Emma Diehl is a nationally-published journalist with expertise in finance, real estate, and technology. Her work has appeared on NPR, The Huffington Post,, and numerous local publications. When she's not covering the world of personal finance with SoFi, she's probably rollerblading or planning her next meal.
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