Tuition, Debt, and Medicine: The intersection of cost and value for future doctors

Tuition, Debt, and Medicine: The intersection of cost and value for future doctors

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, over 80% of medical school graduates leave school with debt. The median amount of education debt carried by U.S. medical graduates in 2015 was over $180,000. This is significant but surmountable, given the salary of a physician. However, the bigger Caribbean schools do not leave students with an average amount of academic debt. In fact, they can leave them repaying nearly twice as much. They also force students to deal with high attrition rates, 300+ member starting classes, and a sink-or-swim approach to both basic sciences and clinical rotations. 

The question, then, is this: is the greater cost worth it? Do you truly "get what you pay for" in that environment? Or is there a better option? One that also has a demonstrably better dedication to your future? Financially, culturally, academically, and professionally? 

We think so. And it shows in tuition, outcomes, and ROI.

First, Tuition 

Compare MD Programs: Tuition and Students Enrolled

Compared to public and private medical education in the United States, Trinity is a great option. When you compare it to other Caribbean schools though, the value soars. We are, by no means, the lowest cost school. There are cheaper alternatives, but none of these are actually acreditted by CAAM-HP. Without commenting on the quality of the education offered, this missing US-based accreditation alone can be a barrier after graduating, especially with pending legislation actually requiring it.


 

Then, Outcomes.

Does a medical school like Trinity, with its tuition in the middle of the cost continuum, sufficiently prepare its students for success on the USMLE licensure exams and in the residency match? Yes, of course. We're a young school, but our match rate is a hard, unvarnished 84%. We have also had students go on to become chief residents in every class thus far. 

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The Crucial Intersection: ROI

To each their own, but Trinity students tend to be of the mindset that entering the field of medicine is about the service, not the salary. Is there tremendous earning potential as an MD? Of course. However, given the workload, the up front investment, the educational demand, and the boundless compassion for the health and well being of others it often requires, we (and most US and Canadian) schools generally select candidates that are earning an MD to answer a call to service. We've just found that internal motivation makes better doctors.

That said, this is no reason to discount the financial realities. It pays well to become a doctor. There's a point where cost of education can overwhelm even that pay, though.

The average starting salary for a family medicine practitioner in the United States is $189,000.00 a year. Assuming standard deductions for a single person, that works out to a biweekly take home of $3,600.00.

Assuming both federal loans (at current that's a 6.84% rate) and a total tuition of $200,000.00 (a conservative average of the "big four" Caribbean medical schools that does not include books, travel, housing, etc.), and opting for a generous 15 year pay off, this results in a minimum monthly payment of 25% of that take home pay, and a total payoff of $317,000.00. That's an additional $117,000 in interest on top of the original loan. 

Taking all of those same parameters and applying them to Trinity, you end up with a 30% smaller payment, and 70% less total interest on top of the principal.

To make the difference even clearer: if repayment for the "Big Four" seem manageable to you, and you apply that same monthly payment to loans to cover the cost of Trinity, you actually pay 70% less total interest and you're done repaying in just over half the time (8 years rather than 15). 

As an Graduate-Plus-Loan-Comparison-1.pngaside, you may have noticed that we mentioned options in the Caribbean that have federal loan funds available to students, and that Trinity is not one of these schools. This disparity is a result of an update to the laws (34 CFR §600.55, to be precise) requires a certain percentage of off shore schools be US citizens, with the exception of the four oldest schools who were grandfathered in and do not need to obey this particular restriction.

We have a large number of Canadian and Caribbean students, and, quite frankly, we will not alienate them from their futures in medicine for our own gain. However, there is good news. One of our financial aid offerings is SallieMae's Smart Option Student Loan, which as you can see (click the image on the left to enlarge) is a comparable program. In fact, depending on credit rating, it can be better.

Finally, we'd be remiss if we didn't point out that even with all of the cost and quality benefits of Trinity, there are many other ways to reduce the financial burden you may accrue. Applicants to Trinity have opportunities to qualify for many scholarships, grants, and awards that will reduce their tuition each term. And, of course, we also offer benefits for U.S. military veterans via the GI Bill

The decision to become a doctor may be a choice made in your heart, but there's nothing that says how you get there can't be a prudent business decision. While we're obviously of the opinion that Trinity is, by far, the most prudent option among the alternatives, we also hold dear to principles of service and compassion, we're the right choice for those thinking with their hearts, as well. All factors considered, we like to think it works out well for our students, too.  

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