By Dr. James M. Dahle, WCI Founder
The less you spend on medical school, the less likely you are to graduate with a massive debt that will affect your happiness, lifestyle, specialty choice, and job choice. Like college tuition, the average tuition for medical school has been skyrocketing in recent years.
Despite two highly publicized “free tuition” schools, the vast majority of medical schools are expensive enough that if you pay for the entire thing (plus living expenses) with student loans, you will end up owing at least $200,000 after you’re finished.
This has become a yearly exercise where we take a look at the current costs of going to medical school. The American Association of Medical Colleges (the MD organization) publishes a list each year of medical schools you can sort by the cost of tuition, required fees, and health insurance. If you do this, you will discover that there are 18 schools where your all-in required costs (not including living expenses) are less than $30,000 per year (there were 19 such schools in 2021-2022). Unfortunately, you will also discover that almost all of them require you to be a resident of Texas, Puerto Rico, New Mexico, Nebraska, or North Carolina. Outside of those states, your choice of cheap schools will be severely limited.
Without further ado, let’s introduce our contenders. There are 18 “low-cost medical schools.” First, a handy-dandy summary chart.
Now, a few notes on these schools.
The Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences F. Edward Herbert School of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland was named after a New Orleans congressman who, prior to his political career, was a journalist who uncovered serious corruption in Louisiana politics. He was Louisiana’s longest-serving congressman and was prominent on the House Armed Services Committee.
At any rate, USUHS is both the cheapest and the most expensive medical school. Not only will you pay nothing for tuition, fees, and health insurance, but they will actually pay you as an O-1 (2nd Lieutenant or Ensign). That’s a base pay of $3,477.30 per month  plus a tax-free Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS) of $311.68 per month plus a tax-free Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) of $2,652 ($2,706 with dependents) for a grand total of $6,440.98 per month ($77,291.76 per year). And you can count on a likely raise every year. Being paid more than $77,000 per year to attend medical school? The price doesn’t get much better than that. Unfortunately, it is also the most expensive medical school in that it will cost you seven years of your life. If you want to spend your career as a military doctor, this is the best place to attend medical school. If you do not want to be a military doctor, enrolling here will be the biggest mistake of your life
Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine in Pasadena, California was named after the former chairman and CEO of Kaiser. He died in 2019, about the time the school was started. Kaiser is currently the only truly free medical school in the country. While California is not the cheapest place to live, you will pay no tuition, fees, or health insurance premiums. However, the school has only promised to waive tuition for its first five classes. So, if you enroll there by the fall of 2024, you’re good to go (though it could cost you close to $35,000 per year in housing costs). We’ll see what happens after that. As a private school, residents of any state can apply and have a chance to get in.
NYU has two medical school campuses. It used to be that the cheapest one was on Long Island and the very slightly more expensive one was in Manhattan. For this year, at least, both cost exactly the same. NYU got a ton of publicity a few years ago when it started waiving tuition for its medical school. Lots of people may not have realized that you still have to pay fees and health insurance premiums, which total as much as $4,000 per year. Plus, you have to cover the cost of living in New York. Not exactly free, but considering that NYU used to be one of the most expensive medical schools in the country, this is a substantial improvement. Plus, it’s one of the few places on this list where non-residents can be accepted at all.
If you are a resident of Puerto Rico, this is your “in-state” school. While there may still be some bias against a Puerto Rico grad, it is generally considered easier to match from there than from other schools located in the Caribbean, because it is still considered a “U.S. school.”
Perhaps best known for its football team, A&M also has a cheap medical school in College Station (near Houston).
The University of Texas has six campuses: located in Austin, near McAllen on the Mexican border, in Houston, in Dallas, in San Antonio, and in Galveston. Three have interesting names. The first is in Houston, named after pediatric allergist John P. McGovern who donated $75 million to the school. No, I have no idea where he got his money from. The second is in Austin, where they slip the name “Dell” into the title. Michael and Susan Dell pledged $50 million to the school over 10 years. The third is the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at San Antonio Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine, which boasts the longest and most intriguing name on the list (why can’t he have his full middle name in there too?). Joe Long was the chairman of First State Bank and donated $25 million to the school. All half-dozen of these schools provide an inexpensive medical education.
If you’re a New Mexico resident, this is your state school. If you’re a non-resident, it’ll cost you $51,834 per year.
Texas Tech has two campuses. Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Paul L. Foster School of Medicine is in El Paso and is named after a billionaire who was the chairman of the board of Western Refining. He donated $50 million to the school. Meanwhile, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine is based in Lubbock. There are many Texas schools on this list. Texas has long been known as the cheapest state in which to attend medical school, and 11 of the 18 schools on this list are located in the Lone Star State. Non-residents can attend Texas schools, but they’ll end up paying more. However, that amount is sometimes less than resident tuition in their own states! In this case, non-residents will pay $39,558 per year to go to El Paso and $37,676 per year for the Lubbock campus.
This is another inexpensive Texas public medical school.
Yet another inexpensive Texan medical school located in Houston. It separated from Baylor University in 1969, and it has had a very interesting history. Despite being private, out-of-staters have a higher (but still reasonable) bill here of about $40,000.
Another inexpensive public school, LSU charges just under $30,000 per year.
The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (the osteopathic medical school organization) publishes a similar list each year. However, it does not include health insurance in its totals—just tuition and fees. Even so, there were only two schools that came in under $30,000 for the 2022-23 school year, and that was just for in-state residents.
The Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine is associated with the University of North Texas Health Sciences Center in Fort Worth. If you’re a Texas resident, your total tuition and fees are $29,689, more than $6,000 than it was in the previous year. It’s a public institution in Texas, so it’s no surprise that it’s the cheapest DO school in the country.
The West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine is in Lewisburg. It is also a public university. In-state tuition and fees come in at $27,733
I hope you enjoyed that romp through the cheapest medical schools in the land. It looks like we have a little extra time today, so let’s create a Wall of Shame while we’re at it, discussing the most expensive schools out there.
The wall of shame. All of these medical schools charge an egregious amount for tuition, fees, and health insurance, and they should be ashamed of themselves. If you just sort the AAMC list for highest cost, you’ll quickly discover that the highest costs are charged to non-residents at state schools. For the 2021-22 school year, these include:
The University of Washington wasn’t even on this list last year. Now, it’s the most expensive medical school in the country. There is some good news for University of South Carolina students. Even though they’re still north of $90,000 per year, at least the price from 2021-22 to 2022-23 increased by only a couple hundred dollars. And yes, it is incredibly embarrassing to see my own medical school (the University of Utah), where I was a non-resident while attending, on this list.
Let’s also do a top-10 for the private schools, public schools for residents, and the DO schools.
Interestingly, the most expensive private school last year was the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, but it increased its costs by only $6 for this year and, thus, fell down the list.
Interesting that the gap from the No. 10 most expensive private school to the No. 1 most expensive public school for residents is still more than $13,000 per year. That just goes to show you how much less expensive going to your state school is than going to most private schools.
Remember this category does not include health insurance—just tuition and fees for the 2020-21 school year.
It’s worth noting that the most expensive school here, Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine/Midwestern University, increased its cost by more than $4,000. These schools cover a wide range, but you can certainly spend at least as much money on an osteopathic medical education as a private allopathic education.
Unless “free medical school” becomes a lot more popular, the average physician is likely to graduate with increasing levels of debt. It’s important to come up with an effective long-term strategy on how to pay for medical school. Keep in mind there is a dramatic difference between paying $75,000+ per year and paying $25,000 per year. As a general rule, most pre-meds should still choose to attend the least expensive school they can get into.
What do you think? How does your school stack up? Do you think it is worth paying $50,000 a year in tuition and fees? $75,000? $90,000? Comment below!
[This updated post was originally published in 2021.]
Is CCLCM no longer tuition free? It’s technically part of CWU’s program, and doesn’t have very large classes, and is a 5 year program with a one-year research requirement, instead of four years, but shouldn’t it be on the list?
Sounds kind of similar to an MD/PHD i.e. with a contract to do some research rather than just free tuition. A bit of a hybrid I guess. But yes, sounds like it should be on the list.
Yes, CCLCM should be on the list and the sacrifice is in fact a year of research. I went to the University tract at CWRU (standard, 4-yr med school program, ’16), and you can apply to either/both program. If you do the year of research you essentially miss out on a year of attending salary but live the rest of your life tuition and fees debt-free.
That’s a pretty big expense when you think of it that way. That’s like adding $50K+ a year to tuition.
Current CCLCM student here – CCLCM is a 5 year program that provides a full-tuition scholarship for all 5 years. Our 4th year is a research year (which may be additionally grant-funded), which allows us to complete a thesis that can count for both our MD and a masters degree (also tuition-free; many of us earn an MSc or MPH). This isn’t the right program for folks that don’t like research, but for those who intend to become physician investigators, this program is perfect and sets you up to be competitive for residency as well.
NYU Long Island also has a 3-year curriculum, making it that much less expensive than NYU in Manhattan. It’s specifically focused on primary care.
Interesting. What do they leave out?
Texas Tech and Penn State also have three year medical school options.
Although Columbia P&S does have a high list price, it’s no longer responsible for large loan burdens. In 2018, they formed a scholarship to cover 100% of demonstrated need for all students with the goal of loan-free educational experiences (including room and board). https://www.vagelos.columbia.edu/education/student-resources/student-financial-aid-and-planning/vagelos-scholarship-program
Thanks for the info. I remembered something about Columbia being free when I was writing the article, but then when I went to look it up and found what I found. I guess that needs a change too.
FYI Robert Grossman is not dead and is still CEO of NYU Langone.
Fixed. Thanks for pointing that out, Julia.
It’s been a few years, but my first year at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, the out of state tuition was $1200. After one year, I was offered in state tuition, $600 per year, $4500 in today’s dollars. Now it’s a great deal at $22,900?
It actually would be really helpful to know which of these schools allow you to switch to in- state tuition after the first year, as that was an option for everyone at University of Cincinnati when I went there as well.
That does make a big difference. A lot easier to justify one year of high out of state tuition.
I think The Cleveland Clinic’s 5 year program with a research year has free tuition. The University of Maryland also converts students to the resident’s tuition after year one and has scholarships for many students year 1. Many public California schools do the same.
If you earn a scholarship at a Texas school, you will automatically qualify for in-state tuition. They are all cheap and they are all good!
Seen in comparison to current costs for undergraduate education, medical school costs are not all that extraordinary. That being said, higher education costs are unbelievable. This is another example of how the social contract of America is broken. Nowadays, you can lead an exemplary life, work hard, study hard, earn good grades and still be bound by economic servitude for the remainder of your life.
I guess it depends on what undergrad you’re looking at. Here in Utah, the state schools and largest private school in the state have tuition in the $5-10K range. That’s very different from med/dental school.
I just saw your email about 19 medical schools under 30K. I did not see Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine. This school is tuition free!
I’m not sure why the AAMC did not include this school. Maybe because the full tuition is a scholarship for all students. Luckily, it’s not one of those scholarships that goes away if you don’t make certain grades after the second semester like I have seen in law school.
I’ve enjoyed your blog and newsletters over the years. Thank you for all you do!
Thank you for including UPR on your list. I see lots of quotations mark. I would think that in 2022 PDs know that all schools in PR are LCME accredited, as a commonwealth we are considered USA for all purposes in terms of medical schools. I had absolutely no problems going into a top school at a top specialty. In terms of UPR-SOM specifically, that would be in-state and the cheapest school in the state. That being said a couple years ago it was even cheaper (around 12k a year). Again, thank you for including it in your list! Cheers.
Puerto Rico is not a state, so the quotations marks for “in-state” seem completely appropriate. The ones around “in the country” maybe not. But I made the same point you did that it counts as a US school with the third set.
Cornell Medicine is also a no-loan school.
‘debt-free education for all medical students with demonstrated financial need’ … ‘scholarships that cover tuition, housing and other living expenses’
So it’s not free for everyone, but it seems like a good deal if you qualify.
More discussion here: https://forum.whitecoatinvestor.com/general-welcome/316087-discuss-latest-wci-blog-post-19-of-the-cheapest-medical-schools-in-the-us
21 Years ago, it was an incredibly difficult decision. But choosing to attend a Texas school and establish Texas residency prior to enrolling was probably the best financial decision I have ever made.
Great Post and the “wall of shame” schools should truly be ashamed.
Great post. I finished Brody when it was still East Carolina Univ. SOM and I’m BEYOND grateful. Paid about $60K for all 4 years! It’s a great place and it got me where I wanted to go.
Very interesting. My husband and I actually attended USC school of medicine in Columbia, SC (in-state tuition) and work at the Greenville campus now. I actually read this article while thinking USCSOM would be one of the schools with the lowest cost. I was shocked to see we were the very highest. But, what context may be missing is that for years SC has had a major shortage of physicians. I know this was true when I was applying to medical school in 2002. For a long time USC had one of the lowest costs for tuition. They found that students from neighboring states like would wisely come for a less expensive medical school education… then a high percentage returned closer to home to practice medicine. SC schools wanted to increase admissions for in-state students who would be more likely to stay in SC to practice medicine for the long haul. So, they have kept tuition competitively low for those in-state students, and the out of state tuition is incredibly high.
What’s interesting about that strategy is that residency probably matters more as far as where physicians practice. The net effect of states doing that (and many do) is that it gives pre-meds fewer options because it mostly eliminates out of state state schools as an option, even if you have the money.
If we’re including DO schools, TCOM in Ft Worth comes in at 22k for residents and 38k for non-residents
Thanks for sharing!
Where did you see that the TCOM tuition went up by 6000? I’m still using the above link and the numbers are still adding up to ~23000
Not a free medical school, but perhaps a new option to consider for some, but it appears the HPSP now includes the VA.
Might be a consideration for some looking to keep costs down.
UT Southwestern and UT San Antonio give out-of-state students in-state tuition. Technically it’s a scholarship that makes up the difference, but they give it to all admitted out-of-state students. I don’t know about the other Texas schools because those are the only two I got into, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the others do it as well.
I was amazed to see these numbers.
My tuition was $2800 the first year at USF in Florida. It went up every year, something like $4800, $7200, then $9800.
If my memory is close, it cost $24,000 in tuition for all four years and about $10,000 a year to live in an apartment with a roommate. Since I didn’t work, I borrowed about $60,000.
I looked up my old school just now and it seems to be about $45,000 to $70,000 per year (in state resident is the lower).
Incredible. My graduation year was 1990, so my prices from 1986-90 are all about 35 years old.
At the time, the average student loan debt was around $55,000. An apartment with a roommate was $450 a month each. I drove a 1980
Datsun 280ZX that cost $3000 and later bought a 1990 Honda CRX for $12,800 in my fourth year…with no job.
I picked USF as it was the least expensive of the three schools that accepted me. The other two were private and were about $20,000 a year for tuition alone.
The University of Washington also has the WWAMI program, which allows “out of state” students who are residents of Wyoming, Alaska, Idaho, and Montana to pay the instate grad tuition rate of their respective states for their first two years of school, before paying tuition directly to University of Washington. I think over the 4 years it averages to about 20-30k per year depending on your state.
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By Dr. James M. Dahle, WCI Founder