8 Best Free Medical Schools
Updated On September 12, 2022
Editorial Note: This content is based solely on the author's opinions and is not provided, approved, endorsed or reviewed by any financial institution or partner.
If you want to attend medical school, you may be asking, “What medical schools are free in the United States?” The good news is there are several tuition-free medical schools that offer outstanding academics, significant training, and numerous job opportunities upon graduation.
While more medical schools now offer tuition-free programs, medical students still borrow student loans and seek scholarships to cover living expenses.
In this complete guide to the 8 best free medical schools, you’ll learn:
- Medical school: key costs
- 8 best medical schools for free
- How to get financial aid for medical school
- How to borrow student loans for medical school
Top Picks For Student Loan Refinancing
Medical school: key costs
Most medical schools require substantial tuition costs, which can make medical school very expensive. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the average tuition at medical schools is $250,222 at public medical schools and $330,180 at private medical schools.
In addition to tuition costs, medical school students must pay for room and board and other living expenses. For example, expect to pay for rent, food, transportation, supplies, books, a computer, among other costs. To cover these costs, most medical school students borrow student loans for medical school.
During residency, fellowship or as a practicing physician, student loan refinancing is one option to get a lower interest rate and save money on your medical school student loans. When you refinance student loans, you could lower the total cost of your medical school to save money.
So, even if you attend one of the best tuition-free medical schools, remember to budget for additional living expenses that may not be covered at your medical school.
8 best medical schools for free
Gaining admission to a top medical school is a dream for aspiring doctors. If you can get admitted to one of the best free medical schools, your path to financial freedom could start earlier than your classmates. While some medical schools offer a tuition-free medical degree based on financial need, other medical schools provide merit-based scholarships or grants to select students.
Here are 8 top medical schools that could be tuition-free for you:
- New York University
- Columbia University
- Cornell University
- Cleveland Clinic
- Kaiser Permanente
- Medical University of Vienna
- Washington University in St. Louis
1. New York University
New York University, or NYU, became the first top medical school to offer tuition-free medical school in the U.S. Based in New York City, NYU announced in August 2018 that it would waive tuition and fees for its medical students. Unlike several tuition-free medical schools, the NYU Grossman School of Medicine provides tuition-free medical school for all its students, regardless of financial need.
As one of the nation’s best medical schools, NYU offers free medical school. However, medical students will still be financially responsible for all living expenses. For example, according to NYU, living expenses in New York City while attending NYU can exceed $20,000 per year.
That said, NYU now offers a need-based Debt-Free Scholarship that covers 100% of a medical student’s demonstrated financial need. With a Debt-Free Scholarship from NYU, medical students who qualify won’t have to borrow student loans.
Total Cost of Attendance Without Financial Aid: $93,098
2. Columbia University
Columbia University, which is also based in New York City, first offered free medical school in 2017. Known as the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, the medical school offers 100% of demonstrated financial need.
The Vagelos Scholarship Program made Columbia “made it the first medical school in the nation to meet 100 percent of demonstrated financial need with scholarships for all students who qualify as part of their need-based financial aid package.” Dr. P. Roy and Diana Vagelos established the Vagelos Scholarship program through a $300 million endowment.
To qualify for free medical school tuition at Columbia, total annual family income must be below $125,000. If a family earns less than $125,000 annually, then the family contribution will be $0 from income. However, Columbia could require parental contributions based on a family’s assets.
Total Cost of Attendance Without Financial Aid: $102,286
3. Cornell University
Weill-Cornell Medicine, which is Cornell University’s medical school, announced in 2019 that it would offer scholarships for medical students instead of student loans.
According to Weill-Cornell’s Office of Financial Aid, the medical school now offers “offer debt-free need-based financial aid for students in our MD program who have demonstrated financial need.” Weill-Cornell, which is based in New York City, meets full financial need through grants that medical students don’t need to repay.
To determine financial need, Weill-Cornell starts with the cost of attendance and then subtracts a family’s contribution. The net result is the “financial need.” For eligible medical students, Weill-Cornell then covers the financial need 100% with a need-based grant.
Total Cost of Attendance Without Financial Aid: $90,000+
4. Cleveland Clinic
Cleveland Clinic, which is based in Cleveland, Ohio, has offered tuition-free medical school since 2008. Known officially as the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University, the medical school provides a full tuition-free education to all its medical students.
Cleveland Clinic wants to ensure that “financial constraints” don’t prevent medical school students from becoming “physician investigators.” In the research thesis year, medical students should know that Cleveland Clinic requires a continuation fee equal to 5% of tuition. However, the medical school’s full tuition scholarship covers the full cost of the continuation fee and other select fees.
While Cleveland Clinic covers full tuition costs, medical students are responsible for other living expenses, which could include rent, food, transportation and other fees. Cleveland Clinic also notes that “tuition and fees are subject to change each academic year.”
Total Cost of Attendance Without Financial Aid: $103,036
5. Kaiser Permanente
In February 2019, the Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine announced it would offer tuition-free medical school for its first five classes of medical students.
Kaiser Permanente will waive all tuition and fees for medical school students in the Class of 2020, Class of 2021, Class of 2022, Class of 2023 and Class of 2024. However, students will need to cover the cost of living expenses, which Kaiser estimates will be $34,500 annually.
If a medical school student has demonstrated financial need, Kaiser provides substantial grants to cover the cost of living expenses.
Total Cost of Attendance Without Financial Aid: $97,491
The UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine offers substantial financial aid to help medical school students with the cost of tuition. For example, UCLA offers several David Geffen Medical Scholarships, including the David Geffen School of Medicine Scholarship for Excellence and the David Geffen School of Medicine Impact and the Distinction Scholarship.
According to UCLA, 89% of UCLA medical students receive a scholarship. Approximately 25% of UCLA medical students can receive the David Geffen Medical Scholarship, which covers tuition and costs to attend UCLA medical school. For example, recipients of the David Geffen Medical Scholarship won’t pay tuition and receive a stipend to pay living expenses, including rent, transportation, books and supplies.
Total Cost of Attendance Without Financial Aid: $80,637
7. Medical University of Vienna
Based in Vienna, Austria, the Medical University of Vienna is the largest medical school in Austria and one of the top medical schools in Europe.
The Medical University of Vienna is a free medical school for students who live within the European Union. However, if you live outside the European Union, medical students contribute approximately 1,500 Euros annually.
8. Washington University in St. Louis
In contrast to other tuition-free medical schools, Washington University considers both financial need and merit when making financial aid decisions. If a medical school student doesn’t receive a full tuition grant, Washington University also offers partial grants to fund the cost of tuition.
Total Cost of Attendance Without Financial Aid: $90,030
How to get financial aid for medical school
If you want to attend medical school, you should know that tuition-free medical school is the exception to the rule. Therefore, most medical school students will have to pay substantial costs to attend medical school. Why? Most tuition-free medical schools are funded by alumni donors or other large endowments. Since most medical schools may not have access to such large financial gifts, these medical schools will continue to charge high tuition.
You may ask, “How do you get financial aid for medical school?” There are several options to get financial aid for medical schools, including scholarships and grants from:
- Government Grants: Check with your local and state government higher education authority regarding grants and scholarships to fund medical school.
- Non-profit organizations: Non-profit organizations are an excellent source of financial aid for medical schools. For example, the American Medical Association offers merit scholarships to attend medical school.
- Medical Foundations: The American Medical Association Foundation offers the Physicians of Tomorrow scholarship program. This scholarship program provides $10,000 of tuition assistance to medical students entering their fourth year of medical school.
- Medical Companies: Private medical companies, including hospitals, medical devices and pharmaceuticals may offer scholarships to attend medical school. For example, Johnson & Johnson offers $10,000 to attend medical school through the Tylenol Future Care Scholarship.
Many of these scholarships and grant programs offer partial tuition or financial aid for medical school. However, you should apply to as many scholarships and grants as possible to maximize your amount of financial aid.
How to borrow student loans for medical school
Once you have evaluated tuition-free medical schools and applied for scholarships, then you should consider student loans for medical school. For medical school, you can borrow both federal and private student loans.
- Federal Student Loans: The U.S. Department of Education offers federal student loans up to the full cost of attendance. Federal student loans have a fixed interest rate, meaning the interest rate won’t change over the life of your student loans.
- Private Student Loans: Private student loans for medical school are available from private lenders. With private student loans, you can get a fixed or variable interest rate, both of which could be lower than the interest rates for federal student loans.
Since federal student loans provide borrowers with various benefits such as student loan forgiveness, income-driven repayment and student loan forbearance, you should consider borrowing federal student loans before borrowing private student loans.