The University of Rochester has established a $2 million fund to start the process of making medical and dental education at the university completely free. Here is the article in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. How amazing is that?
I've ranted before about the obscene costs of applying to medical school, and I've intentionally avoided thinking too deeply about the costs of actually attending medical school. (I'll worry about getting in, and then I'll figure out how to pay for it.) Its no doubt that the high costs of medical education hurt our health system by dissuading some of the best and brightest students in the US from even applying. There are just so many ways for students to get a better financial return on their educational investment other than medical school and practicing medicine. (Although my econ major friends are seeing their lucrative futures as investment bankers dwindling)
Ultimately, I think that it is in our best interests to reduce the barriers for qualified students to go to medical school. We'll get the best and brightest doctors and work to reduce the shortage of doctors in the US. As I've mentioned before, the shortage of American trained doctors is a driving force for the brain drain of the developing world, and will continue to be a major problem as the generation of baby boomers age. Reducing the barriers to medical school will involve two things: 1) reducing the cost of medical education and 2) increasing the number of spots in medical schools.
I hope that more universities and wealthy donors take note of University of Rochester and consider the social good that would come from making medical education free.