10 Medical Schools With Free Tuition
Tuition-free medical schools are popping up across the U.S., including at some of the country’s most prestigious universities.
While the list of medical schools with free tuition continues to grow, be aware that many so-called full-ride scholarships don’t necessarily provide 100% assistance. You may still need to apply for med school scholarships and student loans to meet uncovered costs.
10 tuition-free medical schools to consider
Attending a free medical school may sound like a dream come true, but unfortunately, most tuition-free schools still come with a price tag.
For example, Washington University in St. Louis doesn’t charge tuition for approximately half of its medical students. However, those students still need to cover secondary expenses, such as room and board, which averaged $18,470 for the 2022-23 school year.
With that caveat in mind, here’s a look at 10 medical schools offering to waive tuition (or more) for eligible students.
|School||Criteria to qualify for aid||Percentage of students helped||Uncovered expenses*|
|Columbia University||Financial need||20%||$0|
|Cornell University||Financial need||52%||$0|
|Duke University||Academic merit||Not disclosed||$0|
|Emory University||Financial need or academic merit||50%||Varies|
|Harvard Medical School||Financial need||50%||$32,895|
|New York University||None||100%||$25,800|
|Washington University||Financial need or academic merit||50%||$26,107|
*For first-year students enrolled in a four-year M.D. program, current as of April 7, 2023
1. Cleveland Clinic
First-year cost of attendance without aid: $103,156
Cleveland Clinic’s medical school tuition is waived for each of its 32 enrollees each year. More formally known as The Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine (CCLCM), it has waived tuition since 2008, predating its competitors.
The tuition-free award is earned in this case: Cleveland Clinic medical school expects students to spend a fifth year in the program conducting research.
Cleveland Clinic students who need financial aid to meet their total cost of attendance (minus tuition, of course) would also complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), just like their peers at typical medical schools.
2. Columbia University
First-year cost of attendance without aid: $108,570
Columbia medical school students were the first to receive a free education when the Vagelos Scholarship program launched in 2017. It promises to meet 100% of the cost of attendance for lower-income students — including tuition, fees, study materials and room and board.
To qualify, your family must earn a household income of less than $125,000, at least as of the 2019-20 school year.
While the Vagelos program provides a completely free education for some students — 20%, according to the school’s newspaper — sticker-price tuition for other students is $70,886 for the 2023-24 school year, not including additional expenses.
3. Cornell University
First-year cost of attendance without aid: $90,000
The Weill Cornell Medicine program is another excellent school on the tuition-free medical school list. Since the 2019-20 academic year, Cornell has offered scholarships instead of loans for students who qualify for financial aid.
In addition, Cornell students pursuing dual M.D. and Ph.D. degrees could receive full tuition, as well as living expenses stipends, from the school and the National Institutes of Health.
Students who don’t qualify for need-based financial aid could still decrease their cost of attendance through school-offered extracurriculars, such as community service.
4. Duke University
First-year cost of attendance without aid: $101,315
Getting an education at one of the nation’s top medical research universities comes with a hefty price tag. However, all applicants accepted into the Duke School of Medicine will automatically be considered for several merit-based tuition and full-ride scholarships.
The current scholarships include the Rauch Family Leadership Scholarship, the Dean’s Tuition Scholarship, Fullerton Medical Scholarships and Medical Scientist Training Program.
These merit scholarships are awarded in the first year and will continue through graduation if the student maintains satisfactory academic performance.
5. Emory University
First-year cost of attendance without aid: $82,046
Emory University awards approximately 70 medical school scholarships per year. Most of these are based on financial aid as determined by the student’s FAFSA and CSS Profile. About 20 of these scholarships are merit based, with several based on community service.
Incoming students have multiple scholarships to consider, such as a one-time Diversity Fund Scholarship, a one-time human genetics needs-based scholarship and the Robert W. Woodruff Fellowship for outstanding students, which covers full tuition and provides a stipend.
Additionally, medical students receive at least $4,000 per year as part of their Focus Internship, which spans two years of their training in the specific area of clinical practice or research.
6. Harvard Medical School
First-year cost of attendance without aid: $104,200
Harvard University is one of the Ivy League schools offering free tuition for need-based students. At Harvard Medical School, about 1 in 5 financial aid recipients has an annual family income of $50,000 or less. Furthermore, 50% of the student body receives assistance from the Middle Income Initiative.
If eligible, your Harvard Medical School tuition and fees will be waived for up to eight semesters as long as you continue to meet the criteria and maintain academic progress.
In addition to institutional and federal aid, Harvard can help you explore other finance options, such as research fellowships, external scholarships and federal work-study opportunities.
7. Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine
First-year cost of attendance without aid: $99,190
The Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine will temporarily cover all tuition and fees for its first five classes of students from 2020 to 2024.
Unfortunately, the 48 to 50 students admitted annually must finance an estimated $34,500 in living expenses for the Pasadena, Calif., campus.
But on the plus side, studying at Kaiser could give you access to hands-on learning at the health care company’s array of hospitals and clinics.
8. New York University (NYU)
First-year cost of attendance without aid: $93,098
The NYU Grossman School of Medicine was a pioneer among medical schools to offer tuition-free initiatives. In August 2018, it became the first nationally ranked program to waive tuition and fees for all students, regardless of their financial situation or academic record.
Although there are no requirements for free tuition at NYU’s medical school, there is a catch: The funds, made possible by endowment, won’t cover a student’s average living and administrative expenses, which was $25,800 for the 2022-23 school year.
First-year cost of attendance without aid: $80,637
Every year, 50 UCLA medical students won’t need to worry about tuition and fees if they qualify for the merit-based David Geffen School of Medical (DGSOM) Scholarship for Excellence. Additionally, the DGSOM Impact and Distinction Scholarship covers the full cost of attendance for 10 students each year, including a living stipend.
All applicants are automatically considered for these merit-based scholarships, regardless of financial need.
For those who aren’t eligible to receive the UCLA free-tuition or full-ride financial aid award, you might still qualify for the institution’s partial merit- and need-based scholarship opportunities.
10. Washington University in St. Louis
First-year cost of attendance without aid: $93,402
Washington University Medical School joined the tuition-free movement in April 2019, promising to discount tuition to zero for as much as half of its student body. Previously, just 1 out of 6 students in the program received a full ride to medical school.
Unlike similar medical school scholarships, Washington weighs financial need and academic merit when making aid decisions.
However, the school’s financial aid program doesn’t cover all costs, such as expenses labeled as “fees.” On the plus side, it does award partial-tuition merit scholarships for outstanding students.
Why tuition-free medical school isn’t completely free
While the 10 programs above are certainly bringing medical school prices down, they’re not erasing all costs for all students:
- Five programs leave students with over $25,000 of non-tuition expenses to manage.
- Four programs cover 100% of your expected educational costs, but only for certain students.
So even at these tuition-free schools, students who gain a 100% full ride to medical school are in the minority. Peers will need to bridge the gap in their cost of attendance with scholarships, grants, earned income and student loans.
With that said, programs advertised as tuition free are certainly among the cheapest medical schools in the country and should result in their students borrowing less than the average.
And the average can be quite scary, currently at $202,450, according to the Education Data Initiative.
Keep in mind that medical school tuition-free pledges aren’t always permanent, either: Each of the scholarship programs above are made possible by endowments that without new funding are vulnerable to attrition. In other cases, schools such as Kaiser’s will only offer tuition-free medical school for a limited time.
How to get scholarships for medical school
Like those pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree, professional-degree seekers can and should apply for gift aid that typically doesn’t need to be repaid. Given the challenge of paying for medical school, scholarships and grants can go a long way to limit your overall student loan debt.
Your school wouldn’t be the only source of such assistance — you can also find medical school scholarships and grants from:
- Local government: Check in with your local higher education agency about its slate of state grants.
- Nonprofit foundations: Organizations like the American Medical Association Foundation, with its Physicians of Tomorrow Awards, list medical school merit scholarships. You could also discover medical school scholarships for minorities, such as the United Health Foundation’s diversity program.
- Private companies: Don’t forget about medical-related corporations like Johnson & Johnson, which dispenses $10,000 awards as part of its Tylenol Future Care Scholarship program.
- Professional associations: Even if you’re still on campus and far from joining the medical workforce, you could snare medical school scholarships from the Association of American Medical Colleges.
- Employers: Perhaps your employer provides student loan assistance, helping pave the way for your future. You could also earn aid via your service if you take part in the National Health Service Corps or pursue medical school via the armed forces.
As for how to win awards, from full scholarships to partial aid, focus on boosting your grades, nailing your exams and collecting outstanding letters of recommendation.
Paying for medical school with student loans
If some combination of attending a tuition-free school and racking up scholarships isn’t enough to afford your cost of attendance, your least desirable option is left — borrowing.
Federal and private student loans can help pay for medical school if you’re willing to take on the obligation of debt. It’s generally best to prioritize federal student loans since they offer more repayment protections, such as access to income-driven repayment plans and certain student loan forgiveness programs.
Fortunately, the Department of Education allows students paying for medical school to borrow up to the full cost of their attendance, thanks to the grad PLUS loan program, so you’re less likely to need private loans.
Remember, it’s wise to borrow only what you need for your degree. Before shopping around for a federal or private loan, double-check that you’ve exhausted all other aid options. Also, check out our guide on how to pay for medical school without going broke.