Paying for Medical and Dental School

A reader contacted me with a topic request:

I would think you know a little about financing for medical/dental school. I know most people don’t go into the medical profession because of money, but I’ve been reading about how it is going to be hard for primary care physicians to pay back loans. Maybe you can post something about the problem one will encounter trying to finance for medical school, or do you even think there is a problem? Some may say that physicians are making enough, and that they are just living our of their means or expecting too much before they enter the profession. What’s your thought on this topic? I think they should post insane surgeries on TV and pay doctors what they pay professional athletes. Or, fix up the Rockets and receive the same salary as their star athletes.

This really is a great question! Even though getting accepted is usually considered the difficult part, paying anywhere from $20-$30 thousand per year (up to even $50K for some schools!) can be equally challenging. However, there are some opportunities for financial aid at our disposal.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is something more of us are already familiar with or have at least heard of. FAFSA is exactly what it stands for… federal aid. You can read more about the guidelines and requirements on The only thing they forgot to mention is that it’s a pain-and-a-half to fill out. Stafford loans are a common form of federal aid, but just as with any loan, you’ll be paying interest – actually, lots of it. The fact that the economy is in such a state of unrest doesn’t exactly help federal aid opportunities either. 🙁

Institutional scholarships are based on an applicant’s academic merit, service, leadership, etc. This form of financial aid doesn’t have to be paid back and is usually based on contributions to the university. The new medical school at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center gave out a lot of “full ride” scholarships to applicants in its charter year. This is a trend with a lot of new schools, so don’t expect to see it too often. Most medical schools (and I’m sure dental too) automatically enroll all their students in all the available scholarship/loan programs.

I honestly don’t know too much about this topic myself. I probably missed some key financial aid opportunities, and perhaps was even incorrect in some of my statements above. I recommend you ask current medical/dental students (or maybe if we’re lucky, they’ll share what they know by leaving a comment) to receive the most updated information regarding financial aid and how to properly cope with the burden of debt.

As for me, I’m fortunate enough to have come from a relatively privileged upbringing and have been saving money for quite some time to pay for Baylor. Assuming everything goes as planned, I’ll finish BCM with zero debt.

As for whether or not I think this is a problem given the high salaries of physicians, yeah, I think it is. A lot of people who go to medical school take on $100K worth of debt, but never become practicing physicians. Instead, they become researchers, professors, and other reputable jobs which don’t have as high of a salary. I’m sure most of these people also have families they must take care of, so after you tag on interest charges, these people may end up paying their loans off years after their peers who became physicians. It’s a dilemma, but it’s something we’re all well aware of before we start this journey.

As for fixing up the Rockets, well, I’m not quite sure. The second you heal Tracy McGrady, he’ll just end up injuring something else, so he can reap the benefits of his guaranteed contract while sitting comfortably on the bench. 😉

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