NEW YORK (AFP) - New York University said on Thursday (Aug 16) that it would offer all its current and future medical school students free tuition, in an effort to tackle soaring debt levels and encourage more applicants.
The move - which it said was financed by the generosity of the university's "trustees, alumni, and friends", amounts to a reduction of US$55,018 (S$75,600) in annual fees, regardless of financial needs or academic merit.
It does not cover living and administrative costs averaging US$27,000 a year.
"A population as diverse as ours is best served by doctors from all walks of life, we believe, and aspiring physicians and surgeons should not be prevented from pursuing a career in medicine because of the prospect of overwhelming financial debt," said Dr Robert Grossman, dean of the NYU School of Medicine.
In its statement, NYU also pointed out that high student debt was putting graduates off pursuing less lucrative specialisations including paediatrics and obstetrics and gynaecology.
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the median debt of a graduating medical student in the US is US$202,000 - while 21 per cent of doctors who graduate from a private school such as NYU face over US$300,000.
"Our hope - and expectation - is that by making medical school accessible to a broader range of applicants, we will be a catalyst for transforming medical education nationwide," said Mr Kenneth Langone, chair of the Board of Trustees of NYU Langone Health.
Thursday's announcement came as a surprise ending to the school's annual white coat ceremony, which marks the start of first-year students' medical careers.
Those 93 students will benefit from the scholarship, along with 350 others enrolled further along in the programme.
NYU said it is the only top 10-ranked medical school in the US to offer such an initiative.