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U.S. Medical Students' Education Debt Level Holds Steady Three Years Running
Fixed Interest Rates Are Possible Contributor, Says AAMC
By News Staff
- Research from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) shows that in 2011, 86 percent of medical school graduates owed a median amount of $162,000 in education debt.
- The AAMC says the past three years have seen an "unprecedented slowdown" of growth in mean debt levels.
- Researchers suggest that fixed interest rates of 6.8 percent from 2009-11 may have played a role in that decline.
According to the analysis, in July 2006, Stafford loan interest rates for graduate medical education were fixed at 6.8 percent; previously, interest rates were variable and at times fell to less than 3 percent. Thus, the graduating class of 2009 "was the first medical school class to face at least three years of a fixed 6.8 percent interest rate," and that was the same time the growth of debt levels began to slow.
The researchers pointed out that the costs associated with medical school attendance traditionally have been based on tuition and fees for first-year students without taking into account the living expenses those students incurred or the fact that medical students in their final two years of study often spend more on living expenses. Therefore, for the purposes of their research, the authors included four full years of medical school in calculating costs.
Notably, the authors compared costs in private versus public medical schools and noted that in 2009-10, the 75 public medical schools that participated in the study reported a combined $1.25 billion in gifts and endowment funds available to support medical student grants and scholarships; the 51 participating private schools reported double that amount, or $2.5 billion.
The authors concluded that more research is needed to identify additional factors -- aside from cost and interest rates -- that play a role in the medical school debt that students incur.
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