Medical Student Debt: The 2017 Numbers!
In October, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) released their updated numbers on medical student debt and tuition costs for 2017. The numbers weren’t too surprising, but a few important points are important to know for current and future medical students. Here is a look at their “Debt, Costs, and Loan Repayment Fact Card!”
What the numbers mean:
First, average total is now over $190,000 at graduation for medical student debt. This is slightly increased from 2016, which had numbers about 1% lower. Private schools continue to come with a premium, with the average debt nearly $25,000 higher at the end.
Interestingly, the percentage of students with any debt is down to 75% from 76% in 2016. Meanwhile, the percentage with large debts (>$300,000) is up 1% from 13% to 14%. Appears a dichotomy is growing between those that do not have to take any debt, vs. those that have to take ever growing amount to make it through. Not surprisingly then, the number of students hoping to use a forgiveness or repayment program is put to 46% from 44%.
Lastly, tuition continues to go up as seen on the last block of this report page. Luckily, the gains were modest this year, with only a 1% increase in total 4-year cost for a public school, and a 3% increase in cost for a private school. The overall numbers are still shocking and the fact that it costs so much ($240,000 public, $320,000 private) to educate a single physician is certainly over-whelming.
The key takeaway from this card is that based on 2017 average first-year resident income, the PAYE/REPAYE programs will lead to an estimated monthly payment of $300. This is a good ballpark number to keep in mind when planning your resident budget. My own experience was that my payment ranged from $0 (PGY1) to $425 (PGY4), the higher amount due to extra income from moonlighting starting PGY3 year.
The bottom line:
While it is good that the total number of medical students with debt is very slightly down this year, I think the most concerning aspect is that the number with very high loans (>$300,000) is up. This also seems to be backed up by conversations I’ve seen/had both online and in person, where it’s common to hear of these high debt numbers. Of my classmates, the record I know of was a doctor/lawyer couple with over $600,000 of debt at the end of medical/law school. I personally made it through at about the average amount of debt ($190k), but after 4 years of minimal PAYE payments, this has ballooned to $230,000 with added interest. If I could do it all again, I’d definitely be more mindful of the amount of loans I took out as a medical student.
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