By Kate Selig
$90 million in new scholarship funding will be funneled toward debt elimination for incoming students in the School of Medicine over the next 10 years, Stanford News reported on Wednesday.
The funding is led by a $55 million gift from prominent real-estate developer and philanthropist John Arrillaga ’60. His contribution will be supplemented by institutional support and philanthropic donations from the School of Medicine.
Arrillaga’s gift comes amid a free-tuition trend in medical schools. The New York University School of Medicine made tuition free for all students in 2018, regardless of students’ financial background. In April 2019, the Washington University School of Medicine eliminated tuition costs for half of incoming medical students.
The Arrillaga donation will be used to enhance financial aid for incoming students with demonstrated need. The additional aid will go toward covering living expenses in addition to tuition, according to Stanford News.
“Because we live in an area with such a high overall cost of living, we appreciate that tuition-free does not necessarily mean debt-free,” School of Medicine Dean Lloyd Minor told Stanford News. “Merely addressing tuition costs is not sufficient, as students must often take out large loans to cover their room, board and other living expenses.”
The Class of 2019 graduated with median student debt of just over $89,000, according to Stanford News, while the country median was $200,000.
Arrillaga, who received financial aid from the University when he was a student, told Stanford News he hoped the donation would make medical school more accessible for students.
“I hope this gift will attract a diverse group of the best and brightest students from every socioeconomic background to the university and bring a Stanford Medical School education within reach for any student who may not have been able to consider it otherwise,” Arrillaga said. “I believe that focusing aid on students with established need is what is best from an equity and opportunity standpoint.”
Stanford Medical Center Development, which supports Stanford Medicine, has set up a page on its website where individuals can donate to match Arrillaga’s gift. The page also includes quotes and videos from students who have benefited from financial aid.
Kaylene Carter, fifth-year medical student, told Medical Center Development that financial aid was pivotal in her decision to pursue medicine.
“I probably would have had a much harder decision whether or not to go into medicine, especially coming from seven years of a different career [in the U.S. Navy], whether or not to give all that up and start something new afresh,” Carter said. “Having access to financial aid like that really just made the decision a lot easier.”
Contact Kate Selig at kselig ‘at’ stanford.edu.