Geisinger and the Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine (based out of Pennsylvania) recently announced that it would offer a debt-free medical school option. The official name is the Geisinger Primary Care Scholars Program.
The program guidelines are pretty simple, but there are a few requirements. Assuming acceptance to the medical school program, students will need to work in the primary care field for four years after their residency. During this time, they must also work in areas that Geisinger serves.
By the program’s definition, debt-free accounts for all tuition costs (and associated fees). In addition, the program includes a living stipend of $2,000 per month through the four years of medical school.
Like others pursuing higher-education opportunities, medical students are no strangers to accumulating loans over their long years of schooling. Most graduates are mentally prepared for the debt. Usually their reasoning is pretty simple. It goes something like this: medical professionals, like doctors, tend to make a higher than average income. Therefore, with future (and big) salaries to be earned, the mounting debt isn’t as scary.
Still, it is estimated that most medical school graduates leave with roughly a quarter of a million dollars waiting to be paid back. And that likely means interest is accruing, too.
A Push for Primary Care
Regardless of the future earning potentials, medical schools have started to notice a trend. On a national level, there is a shortage of primary care physicians. These types of physicians are especially needed in low-income areas — both rural in urban populations. This shortage also extends across the same service areas that Geisinger supports in Pennsylvania, Maine, New Jersey and Delaware. Sometimes primary care physicians leave their positions to obtain more lucrative, specialized careers. The goal here is to help allow primary physicians to pursue their careers without the worry of debt.
According to Geisinger, the program will select 40 students from each new incoming class of admitted students. This will no doubt be a competitive process. Qualifications will include financial need, academic credentials, diversity, community service, “… and predictors of whether the applicant is likely to stay in Geisinger’s service area.”
The eligibility for the program includes first-year students and second-year medical students. Future students accepted at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine can apply.
Similar Medical Programs
Geisinger is no doubt an innovative organization. Moreover, this type of program and aid is similar to Public Health and Military Service scholarships. These programs typically cover all direct educational costs — things like tuition, supplies, books, etc. — and also provide a stipend. In return, there is a minimum commitment of service that is required. As such, Geisinger joins other medical schools, like NYU and Cornell, that are experimenting with different ways to lower costs for students.