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The New York University School of Medicine generated national headlines and some glowing editorials when it announced over the summer that it planned to go tuition-free.
Harvard, though, has no plans to follow suit.
NYU's School of Medicine recently decided to grant full-tuition scholarships to all M.D. students without attention to their level of financial need or academic merit. The scholarships do not include the roughly $29,000 in room, board, and living expenses that NYU estimates students will still need to pay each year.
The move came after the school raised $450 million of the $600 million they needed to completely cover tuition — $100 million of which came from Kenneth G. Langone, the founder of Home Depot.
Harvard Medical School Dean George Q. Daley ’82 wrote a letter to students this month reviewing Harvard’s current scholarships for its medical students. He criticized the approaches of other schools but did not mention NYU by name.
"Some schools have abandoned the principle of need-based scholarship support and are diverting aid from students in need to students with ample means to pay for their education, often those who already enjoy considerable socioeconomic advantages," he wrote.
He also mentioned that Harvard Medical School graduates have the third-lowest level of student debt of all American medical schools, hovering at $105,389.
Edward Hundert, Harvard’s dean for medical education, said Harvard’s financial-aid programs attempt to provide more need-based aid, rather than merit aid or scholarships that do not factor in financial need.
“What we're trying to do is make sure that, as we allocate our scholarship funds, that we do it based on the calculated ability to pay of people who apply, so that we don't get into the possibility that a students from a family of considerable means is getting more of our aid relative to a student of more limited means,” he said.
Under Harvard Medical School’s current tuition scheme, all students receive a scholarship that is equal to their financial need as determined by federal formulas — minus $33,950, the school’s “unit loan” that it expects all students to take out annually.
Asked whether he is worried prospective students will now choose NYU over Harvard for financial reasons, Hundert said he thinks students will make that decision based on which school would be the best fit for them.
“We believe that students should try to select whichever learning environment suits them the best,” he said. “I really feel strongly that students should try to find that best learning environment for them.”
Julie Fresne, a senior administrator at the Association of American Medical Colleges, wrote in an email that she would like to see more schools go tuition-free but that it might be financially difficult for many institutions.
“We believe many schools would like to be able to offer such a generous program. However, it takes tremendous support and commitment, not to mention very generous donors, which isn't realistic for all schools,” she wrote.
Harvard Medical School has confronted financial difficulties for the past several years. The school has seen an operating deficit nine out of the last 10 years. The deficit stood at $44 million during the most recent fiscal year.
Correction: Sept. 7, 2018
A previous version of this article misquoted Edward Hundert. It has been updated.
—Staff writer Luke W. Vrotsos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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