What's the Real Cost of Medical School?

What’s the Real Cost of Medical School?

You’ll invest a lot of money attending medical school for four years, from tuition and fees to textbooks and housing. The real cost of medical school adds up quickly. So, just how much does medical school cost? We’ll break down what you need to know about paying for medical school and show you ways to save money, including some popular medical school scholarships and student loans you might qualify for. Learn how much a U.S. medical degree costs, so you can set expectations and budget effectively.

Calculating the True Cost of Medical School

According to the Education Data Initiative, the average total cost of medical school in 2023 is $230,296, and the average yearly cost of medical school is $57,574. The total amount you pay for medical school will vary depending on which school you go to and where it is located in the U.S. The cost of medical school has risen by over one thousand dollars every year for the past eight years, with no signs of slowing down. Further, these numbers only represent the amount charged by the universities, which means that cost-of-living, books, food, and housing are not included. Even a thrifty student who cuts costs will incur certain necessary expenses outside of what they’ll pay to attend. This is why it’s so important to set a budget and plan accordingly.

Finding More Affordable Tuition and Fees

Not all medical schools are that expensive, however. There are 155 medical schools in the United States offering MD programs, in addition to 37 DO or osteopathic programs, and their tuition prices vary greatly. On average, public schools are more affordable than their private counterparts. In-state students receive discounted tuition at public state schools compared to out-of-state students. These are all important factors to consider when choosing a medical school.

Most Affordable Medical Schools in the U.S. in 2023

If you’re looking for an inexpensive medical school, the options below have some of the lowest tuitions in the U.S.:

  • Texas A&M University
    In-state tuition: $21,760; Out-of-state tuition: $34,860
  • The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
    In-state tuition: $22,952; Out-of-state tuition: $36,052
  • The University of New Mexico
    In-state tuition: $23,238; Out-of-state tuition: $51,834
  • The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
    In-state tuition: $24,272; Out-of-state tuition: $33,812
  • The University of Austin
    In-state tuition: $29,399; Out-of-state tuition: $38,719

Keep in mind that this is just the tuition for these schools. Be sure to research and consider other expenses, such as cost-of-living and housing, when calculating total medical school costs.

Most Expensive Medical Schools in the U.S. in 2023

To see the extreme difference in medical school tuition costs, here’s a list of the most expensive medical schools in the U.S. in 2023. The reputations of these schools may be worth the premium, but only if it seems like a reasonable financial investment for your situation. All of the schools on the list below are private medical schools in the U.S.

  • Case Western Reserve University (Ohio)
    Tuition: $73,380
  • Columbia University (New York)
    Tuition: $73,275
  • Brown University – Alpert (Rhode Island)
    Tuition: $73,149
  • University of Southern California – Keck
    Tuition: $72,748
  • Northwestern University – Feinberg (Illinois)
    Tuition: $70,038

Factor in the Cost of Living

Another important consideration when choosing a medical school is the cost of living. The cost of living can vary greatly depending on where your medical school is located. When you’re looking at the total cost of attendance, you also have to factor in things like rent, whether you’ll need a car, food, and the cost of travel home if you’re out of state. These additional factors can tip you over the edge in terms of which schools are most affordable. This is also one of the most individual components of the medical school application and will require some research. The good news is that there are lots of grants, scholarships, and loans available for incoming medical students.

How to Pay for Med School: Loans & Medical School Scholarships

Institutional grants tend to be rare, and there are far fewer medical school scholarships to cover tuition and fees than are available at the undergraduate level. Not to fear—we have some tips for funding your path to a career in medicine. Read on to get an overview of what resources are available to you when considering how to pay for medical school.

Student Loans

Given the cost of medical school attendance and the difficulty of juggling your education with a part-time job to pay for it, student loans have become the norm. According to the AAMC, 71% of medical students carried debt in 2022, and the average student loan debt was $200,000.The medical school financial aid application process is similar to that in undergrad—the school’s financial aid office will have a protocol to follow, which includes filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). After your application has been processed, you will likely qualify for two federal loans, the Direct Unsubsidized Loan and Direct PLUS Loan. The first has a limit of $20,500. While the second will cover the remainder of costs, it will require a credit check. The interest that accumulates while you are in school will be added to the overall loan balance when you graduate. It’s important to stay on top of your student loans to monitor for any changes. Talk to your financial aid office to see if they recommend any tools to help you better manage your debt.

HPSP and Military Scholarships

A significant number of students each year apply for and accept the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP), which is sponsored by the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force. The scholarship covers 100% of tuition and supplies, in addition to a monthly stipend given for living expenses. Recipients of the HPSP scholarship will be expected to serve on the Army Medical team, typically one year on active duty for every year of the scholarship received (“1-for-1”).  This does not include residency training, whether done in a civilian or military residency. Application for the HPSP is completed via a recruiter, for whom the financial aid office or administration will have contact information. The application process can take a while, especially if there are any issues or roadblocks along the way, so it is best to apply early. The National Guard offers the Medical and Dental Student Stipend Program (MDSSP), which requires some time commitment during school and does not provide as much in the way of incentive, but can nonetheless be an excellent option for those wanting to serve part-time and maintain a civilian career.

The NHSC Scholarship

The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Scholarship is not only available to MD and DOs, but also to dentists, NPs, PAs, and DNPs. The NHSC scholarship is run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and provides yet another good option when thinking about how to pay for medical school. Much like the HPSP scholarship, the NHSC scholarship provides tuition, fees, educational costs, and a monthly living stipend in return for providing primary care health services in Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs). To be eligible for this scholarship, you must also pursue residency training in an NHSC-approved specialty: family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, OB/GYN, psychiatry, or a combination of the above. If you plan to go into one of these medical fields and would like to give back to an underserved community, the NHSC is a great way to alleviate the cost of medical school while also helping those in need.

The Professional Student Exchange Program

The Professional Student Exchange Program (PSEP) allows students in 11 western states to receive financial support when attending selected professional programs that are not available at public institutions in their home state. While both MDs and DOs are included in the PSEP, other professions such as veterinary medicine, podiatry, PA, physical therapy, pharmacy, optometry, dentistry, and occupational therapy are also supported. For the 2024-2025 year, the amount of PSEP award given to each student for allopathic medicine (MD) is $35,700 and $25,600 for osteopathic medicine (DO). Many states have a contractual “service payback” obligation in which you must return to your home state after graduation to practice for a certain number of years. Apply early in the year before you plan to attend school, as the standard deadline is October 15th, and only applicants who are processed before that date have a realistic chance at the competitive scholarship.

How to Prepare for Medical School on a Budget

Preparing for medical school can also be an expensive process, but Kaplan is here to help with discounts on MCAT prep for eligible students. Kaplan’s Fee Assistance Program is available for students who have already been approved for AAMC’s Fee Assistance Program–or have an expected family contribution of $4,000 or less on their FAFSA–and are seeking enrollment in an On Demand, Live Online, or In Person MCAT course. Learn more about Kaplan’s Fee Assistance Program and how you can earn up to 60% off* your Kaplan MCAT course.

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*When combined with the AAMC Fee Assistance Program.