Feb 20, 2019

Kaiser's medical school rolls out free tuition for first 5 classes

Expand chart
Data: Association of American Medical Colleges; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Kaiser Permanente's new School of Medicine will cover all tuition and health insurance costs for each student in its first 5 graduating classes.

The big picture: More than a quarter of medical school students graduated with no debt in 2017, up from 15% in 2010. The number of debt-free doctors — one of the highest-paying professions — could rise further if other institutions follow the lead set by Kaiser and NYU's medical school.

By the numbers: 1 year of tuition at Kaiser's medical school, which will have active students by next summer, costs about $55,000. Kaiser's health coverage costs about $6,500 per year.

  • Covering those costs for 4 years for the first 5 classes, each of which will enroll 48 students, means Kaiser will be shelling out roughly $60 million from its own coffers. (Kaiser will not cover students' estimated $34,500 in annual living expenses.)
  • That's basically a rounding error for Kaiser, which owns health plans, hospitals and doctors' clinics and collected $80 billion of revenue in 2018. The multiyear project also represents just 3% of Kaiser's $1.9 billion operating income in 2018.
  • The school will be funded through Kaiser's "community benefits" program, which not-for-profit health care organizations build as a way to justify tax exemptions.

What they're saying: The rationale for free med school is that it will encourage more minority and low-income students to enter medicine, where the average debt per graduate who borrows is $192,000, and it will hopefully push more people to choose lower-paying medical specialties over the highest-paying ones.

  • "We don't want debt to influence students' career choices," said Mark Schuster, dean and CEO of Kaiser's medical school. "We would like it so students can follow their heart and go into the work environment that feels right for them."
  • Schuster said the school will offer "substantial financial aid" after the first 5 classes, and that the real "innovation" isn't the full rides: "It's everything else we're doing to design an educational approach that will turn out phenomenal physicians."

Yes, but: After NYU announced its free tuition last year for all current and future medical students, economists and policymakers warned the move would merely subsidize education costs for an already-affluent group, and it would not guarantee disadvantaged students get chosen over others.

Go deeper

Updated 32 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 6,325,303 — Total deaths: 377,460 — Total recoveries — 2,727,679Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 1,820,523 — Total deaths: 105,644 — Total recoveries: 458,231 — Total tested: 17,340,682Map.
  3. Public health: Protests against police brutality threaten coronavirus response — Controlling the virus in nursing homes won't be easy.
  4. Business: More than 1 in 6 black workers lost jobs between February and April.
  5. Climate: The alarm over climate financial risk gets louder because of coronavirus.
  6. Media: Interest in the George Floyd protests has soared past the coronavirus.

Updates: George Floyd protests nationwide

Police officers wearing riot gear push back demonstrators outside of the White House on Monday. Photo: Jose Luis Magana/AFP via Getty Images

Protests over the death of George Floyd and other police-related killings of black people continued across the U.S., inciting a federal response from President Trump, the National Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection.

The latest: Immigration agents have been deployed to assist federal, state and local law enforcement. The U.S. Secret Service closed the streets immediately on all four sides of the White House Tuesday, until "riots become peaceful, or stop."

NASA passes the torch

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

With the historic crewed SpaceX launch last weekend, NASA passed the torch to private companies that will need to step up to build the economy the space agency envisions in orbit.

Why it matters: This new era of spaceflight will likely be marked by new conflicts — possibly including product placement (like the Tesla that drove the astronauts to the pad on Saturday), safety concerns and cultural differences between companies, the space agencies and people they serve.