Going to med schools these days is a major financial commitment. In 2012, more than a third of med students graduated with more than $150,000 in debt — and this was only their debt from med school, mind you. Thirty-six percent of med school students started with education debt already. And as tuitions continue to rise, young people considering medical school must factor in debt even more as they make decisions about their professional futures.
So what does an ambitious young bio major do? Forego his or her medical studies? Or take out a mortgage-size loan before even enrolling in anatomy class? Fortunately for next year's incoming class at UCLA, some 33 students will not have to consider crushing debt when deciding to pursue a medical degree. David Geffen, entertainment industry billionaire, has already paid their way. He'll also finance the education of an additional 300 UCLA med school students over the next decade. (See Fundraising for Medical Schools.)
As anyone who has gone to college in the past couple of decades is aware, the cost of higher education has become prohibitive, and young people are finishing school shackled by debts they must struggle to repay. It is not unreasonable to think that the cost of education is a deterrent for many people, including bright students considering careers as doctors.
Compounded by an aging population and a growing number of Americans receiving health coverage through the Affordable Care Act, rising med school prices that put off would-be doctors could contribute to an ongoing doctor shortage in the United States. Discouraging students from pursuing medical studies for financial reasons is precisely what David Geffen is trying to stop by donating $100 million in tuition assistance to students at UCLA.
Geffen is not a college graduate, but he did pass himself off as a UCLA grad to get his first job in a mailroom at a New York talent agency. Geffen's career is long, but highlights include the founding of Asylum and Geffen Records and the cofounding of film production company DreamWorks.
Geffen's success has put him on Forbes' list of billionaires. As of March 2013, Geffen was estimated to be worth some $6 billion. Fortunately for America, Geffen puts his massive fortune to use for good, having donated $200 million in 2002 to UCLA's medical school (then the largest med school donation on record). Geffen also is involved in other charitable endeavors and is active in politics.
In UCLA's press release about Geffen's recent donation, Geffen is quoted as saying, "We need the students at this world-class institution to be driven by determination and the desire to do their best work and not by the fear of crushing debt. I hope in doing this that others will be inspired to do the same."
Excellent sentiment, David Geffen. While one man surely can't pay for a country's medical education, he can lead by example and hope that others will also see the importance of this education for America's health care going forward.