Yesterday, I covered an interim meeting of the Legislative Oversight Commission on Education Accountability (LOCEA). Dr. Robert Walker, vice chancellor of health sciences for the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, reported the state has $750,000 sitting in the bank for medical school students but, due to federal financial aid guidelines, can’t give it away. You can read my story about that here.
As you’ll read, Walker mentioned that some federal loan forgiveness programs pay up tens of thousands of dollars over a doctor’s career. While that’s awesome for medical students, it becomes a lot less awesome when you consider how much debt these future physicians incur.
According to a report released yesterday from the Higher Education Policy Commission, the average 2012 graduate at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine had $240,283 in debt. The average graduate at Marshall University’s medical school had $162,010 in debt, and the average 2012 medical school grad at West Virginia University had $156,425 in student loan bills.
The difference in indebtedness, according to the report, comes from the proportion of students paying out-of-state tuition and fees.
What’s worse, those numbers could be higher. The HEPC’s report only included students with loans, and does not include any pre-medical school debt. So, let’s say you received your bachelor’s degree at the University of Charleston where tuition is about $20,000 a year, not including room and board. Newly-graduated doctors could be facing more than $320,000 in debt by the time they get their diploma.
Doctors make a lot of money, but not that much.