If your medical bills seem to be higher after a doctor’s visit or you find yourself sitting alongside more patients in the waiting room than before, you aren’t imagining things.
New doctors are facing increased medical school student debt. Along with that debt comes the need to see more patients to make more money to pay down that steadily rising expense.
Medical students coming out of the Dr. Kiran C. Patel College of Osteopathic Medicine at Nova Southeastern University in Davie reported the highest student debt in the nation at $259,422, based on 2015 graduate debt in a recent 2017 report produced by Comet, a Delaware company that studies student loans. Comet sourced data from the Association of American Medical Colleges.
NSU and the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine were the only Florida medical schools to make the 50 highest student debt list. Both schools are private. UM was ranked No. 36 with $183,947 in graduate debt.
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“It’s not unusual for a student to accumulate that kind of debt over four years for medical school training,” said Dr. Frederick Lippman, chancellor of the Health Professions Division of NSU.
Several factors may contribute to UM’s comparative lower student debt than Nova Southeastern’s: UM has a considerably higher endowment ($887 million), compared with NSU’s $102 million. Endowments play a pivotal role in funding financial aid for students.
Also, UM, which established its medical school in 1952, gets a $30,000 match of the tuition fee per student from the state even though it’s a private school.
“Rightfully so,” said Lippman. “They have statutory privilege. They were given that right because they were the first medical school in the state of Florida. That’s part of their basis of support. For the metrics’ point of view there is that difference. I understand that. We do a lot of work with them so I’m not pointing to an issue, but a reality.”
NSU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine was established in 1978 as the Southeastern College of Osteopathic Medicine. Nova University merged with Southeastern University of the Health Sciences to form NSU in 1994 and added the College of Osteopathic Medicine to the university.
Additionally, NSU’s in-state tuition at $44,845 is higher than UM’s $41,580. NSU’s out-of-state tuition — $49,235 — was also used in the metrics of the report. In-state medical students make up 52 percent of NSU’s population, Lippman said. UM’s tuition is the same for in- and out-of-state students.
By comparison, Florida International University Medical School’s annual in-state tuition is $33,000. FIU is a public university.
The rankings are not based on the quality of a school’s medical program.
NSU has graduated students through its Doctor of Osteophathic Medicine (D.O.) degree program.
In October, NSU earned preliminary accreditation for its new Davie medical school, the College of Allopathic Medicine. Final accreditation comes when the medical school — Broward’s first and Florida’s eighth — graduates its first class. Classes will begin in August with 50 accepted students. UM and FIU’s med schools have around 150 medical students per class. Tuition for NSU’s medical school will be about $50,000 annually, in line with the Osteopathic school.
Schools just behind NSU in highest graduate debt on the AAMC report are: Michigan State University College of Human Medicine ($254,164); Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences ($254,117); Rocky Vista University College of Osteopathic Medicine ($251,768) and Drexel University ($235,449).
The lowest average debt for 2015 graduates on the AAMC list is Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland at $165,341.
Nationwide, students who graduated from medical schools in 2017 owed nearly $195,000 on average, according to the AAMC report. The report also found that the average debt load is higher for 2017 graduates who graduated from a private med school: around $206,000.
Medical school debt increased 123.4 percent in a 25-year period from 1992 to 2017, according to the report. In 1992, the average medical school debt was $87,297.
So who should be able to pay that debt down the fastest? Probably plastic surgeons.
Plastic surgery had the largest income growth in the report, growing nearly 63 percent since 2011, from $270,000 average yearly reported salary to $440,000 in 2016. Orthopedics, emergency medicine, psychiatry and dermatology rounded out the Top 5.
The five specialties with the lowest income growth were led by oncology, which only grew about 12 percent from $295,000 in 2011 to $330,000 in 2016. Anesthesiology, radiology, ophthalmology and pulmonary medicine rounded out the list.
The data was submitted by 113 ranked medical schools to U.S. News & World Report for the annual survey.