By Dr. James M. Dahle, WCI Founder

The less you spend on medical school, the less likely you are to graduate with a massive debt that will affect your happiness, lifestyle, specialty choice, and job choice. Like college tuition, the average tuition for medical school has been skyrocketing in recent years.

Despite two highly publicized “free tuition” schools, the vast majority of medical schools are expensive enough that if you pay for the entire thing (plus living expenses) with student loans, you will end up owing at least $200,000 after you're finished.

I thought it would be interesting to take a look at current costs of going to medical school. Luckily, the American Association of Medical Colleges (the MD organization) publishes a list each year of medical schools you can sort by cost of tuition, required fees, and health insurance. If you do this, you will discover that there are 19 schools where your all-in required costs (not including living expenses) are less than $30,000 per year. Unfortunately, you will also discover that almost all of them require you to be a resident of Texas, Puerto Rico, New Mexico, Nebraska, or North Carolina. Outside of those states, your choice of cheap schools will be severely limited.

 

Affordable Medical Schools Under $30,000 (for 2021-2022)

Without further ado, let's introduce our contenders. There are 19 “low cost medical schools” that  First, a handy-dandy summary chart.

cheapest medical schools 2021-22

Now, a few notes on these schools.

 

#1 USUHS

The Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences F. Edward Herbert School of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland was named after a New Orleans congressman who, prior to his political career, was a journalist who uncovered serious corruption in Louisiana politics. He was Louisiana's longest-serving congressman and was prominent on the House Armed Services Committee. At any rate, USUHS is both the cheapest and the most expensive medical school. Not only will you pay nothing for tuition, fees, and health insurance, but they will actually pay you as an O-1 (2nd Lieutenant or Ensign)! That's a base pay of $3,385.80 per month plus a tax-free Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS) of $266.18 per month plus a tax-free Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) of $2,478 ($2,592 with dependents) for a grand total of $6,129.98 per month ($73,559.76 per year). And you can count on a likely raise every year. Being paid more than $73,000 per year to attend medical school? The price doesn't get much better than that. Unfortunately, it is also the most expensive medical school in that it will cost you seven years of your life. If you want to spend your career as a military doctor, this is the best place to attend medical school. If you do not want to be a military doctor, enrolling here will be the biggest mistake of your life.

 

#2 Kaiser

Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine in Pasadena, California was named after the former chairman and CEO of Kaiser. He died in 2019, about the time the school was started. Kaiser is currently the only truly free medical school in the country. While California is not the cheapest place to live, you will pay no tuition, fees, or health insurance premiums. However, the school has only promised to waive tuition for its first five classes. So if you enroll there by the fall of 2024, you're good to go. We'll see what happens after that. As a private school, residents of any state can apply and have a chance to get in.

 

#3 and #4 NYU

NYU has two medical school campuses. The cheapest one is on Long Island and the very slightly more expensive one is on Manhattan—named after dean and CEO Robert I. Grossman, a neuroradiologist. NYU got a ton of publicity a few years ago when it started waiving tuition for its medical school. Lots of people may not have realized that you still have to pay fees and health insurance premiums, which total more than $10,000 per year. That's almost twice the undergraduate tuition of my alma mater today and about the same cost of in-state tuition at my medical school 20 years ago. Plus, you have to cover the cost of living in New York. Not exactly free, but considering that NYU used to be one of the most expensive medical schools in the country, this is a substantial improvement. Plus, it's one of the few places on this list where non-residents can be accepted at all.

 

#5 Puerto Rico

If you are a resident of Puerto Rico, this is your “in-state” school. Take advantage! Though the data for 2021-22 isn't available on the AAMC survey, it was less than $18,000 in 2020-21, making it the cheapest school “in the country.” While there may still be some bias against a Puerto Rico grad, it is generally considered easier to match from there than from other schools located in the Caribbean because it is considered a “U.S. school.”

 

#6 and #10 Texas Tech

Texas Tech has two campuses. Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Paul L. Foster School of Medicine is in El Paso and was named after a billionaire who was the chairman of the board of Western Refining. He donated $50 million to the school. Meanwhile, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine is based in Lubbock. There are many Texas schools on this list. Texas has long been known as the cheapest state in which to attend medical school, and 11 of the 19 schools on this list are located in the Lone Star State. Non-residents can attend Texas schools, but they'll end up paying more. However, that amount is sometimes less than resident tuition in their own states! In this case, non-residents will pay $36,435 per year to go to El Paso and $36,476 per year for the Lubbock campus.

 

#7 Texas A&M

Perhaps best known for its football team, A&M also has a cheap medical school in College Station (near Houston).

 

#8, #11, #12, #13, #14, and #19 University of Texas

The University of Texas has six campuses: located in Austin, near McAllen on the Mexican border, in Houston, in Dallas, in San Antonio, and in Galveston. Three have interesting names. The first is in Houston, named after pediatric allergist John P. McGovern who donated $75 million to the school. No, I have no idea where he got his money from. The second is in Austin, where they slip the name “Dell” into the title. Michael and Susan Dell pledged $50 million to the school over 10 years. The third is the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at San Antonio Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine, which boasts the longest and most intriguing name on the list (why can't he have his full middle name in there too?) Joe Long was the chairman of First State Bank and donated $25 million to the school. All half-dozen of these schools provide an inexpensive medical education.

 

#9 New Mexico

If you're a New Mexico resident, this is your state school. If you're a non-resident, it'll cost you $51,603 per year.

 

#15 East Carolina

Some people get confused when they hear “East Carolina.” They know North Carolina and South Carolina, but they don't know of East Carolina. It is in Greenville, North Carolina, east of Raleigh. It was renamed in 1999 after the Brody family, former owners of a fashion merchandise chain in North Carolina. They donated $8 million. If you're in North Carolina, this is the cheapest place for you to attend. Don't bother applying if you're not from North Carolina.

 

#16 Nebraska

If you're a Nebraska resident, this is your state school. If you're a non-resident, it'll cost you another $6,000 or so.

 

#17 University of Houston

This is another inexpensive Texas public medical school.

 

#18 Baylor

This is another inexpensive Texan medical school located in Houston. It separated from Baylor University in 1969, and it has had a very interesting history. Despite being private, out-of-staters have a higher (but still reasonable) bill here of about $40,000.

 

What About the DO Schools?

The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (the osteopathic medical school organization) publishes a similar list each year. However, it does not include health insurance in its totals, just tuition and fees. Even so, there were only three schools that came in under $30,000 for the 2020-21 school year, the most recent available figures, and that was just for in-state residents.

 

#1 North Texas

The Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine is associated with the University of North Texas Health Sciences Center in Fort Worth. If you're a Texas resident, your total tuition and fees are $23,148. It's a public institution in Texas, so it's no surprise that it's the cheapest DO school in the country.

 

#2 West Virginia

The West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine is in Lewisburg. It is also a public university. In-state tuition and fees come in at $23,672.

 

#3 Oklahoma State

The Oklahoma State College of Osteopathic Medicine in Tulsa, another public school, clocks in at $28,884. If you add in health insurance, it would no longer qualify as an “under $30,000 school.”

I hope you enjoyed that romp through the cheapest medical schools in the land. It looks like we have a little extra time today, so let's create a Wall of Shame while we're at it, discussing the most expensive schools out there.

 

Most Expensive Medical Schools 

The wall of shame. All of these medical schools charge an egregious amount for tuition, fees, and health insurance, and they should be ashamed of themselves. If you just sort the AAMC list for highest cost, you'll quickly discover that the highest costs are charged to non-residents at state schools. For the 2021-22 school year, these include:

cheapest medical schools

 

Public Schools, Non-State Resident

  1. University of South Carolina (Greenville): $91,599
  2. University of South Carolina (Columbia): $91,465
  3. Northeast Ohio Medical University: $87,606
  4. University of Illinois School of Medicine: $86,437
  5. University of Utah School of Medicine: $83,332
  6. University of South Dakota, Sanford School of Medicine: $81,384
  7. University of Connecticut School of Medicine: $79,973
  8. University of Maryland School of Medicine: $77,106
  9. University of Hawaii, John A. Burns School of Medicine: $76,765
  10. University of Colorado School of Medicine: $71,739

Yes, it is incredibly embarrassing to see my own medical school (the University of Utah), where I was a non-resident while attending, on this list.

Let's also do a top-10 for the private schools, public schools for residents, and the DO schools.

 

Private Schools 

  1. Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth: $73,935
  2. Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine: $73,580
  3. Columbia University Valegos College of Physicians and Surgeons: $73,275
  4. Tufts University School of Medicine: $73,227
  5. Tulane University School of Medicine: $72,672
  6. Harvard Medical School: $72,163
  7. Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine: $72,050
  8. The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University: $71,913
  9. Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine: $71,576
  10. Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania: $71,165

Interestingly, the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California dropped its price from $71,353 in 2020-21 to $70,603 in 2021-22.

 

Public Schools of In-State Residents

  1. Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine: $57,936 (at least non-residents get the same price)
  2. Carle Illinois College of Medicine: $55,373
  3. University of Illinois College of Medicine: $53,260
  4. University of Virginia School of Medicine: $53,204
  5. Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University: $51,760
  6. State University of New York Downstate Medical Center College of Medicine: $49,824
  7. Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at The University at Buffalo: $49,067 (for 2020-21 school year)
  8. State University of New York Upstate Medical University: $48,377 (for 2020-21 school year)
  9. Rutgers New Jersey Medical School: $48,112
  10. University of Maryland School of Medicine: $46,724

Interesting that the gap from the number 10 most expensive private school to the number one most expensive public school for residents is still more than $13,000 per year. That just goes to show you how much less expensive going to your state school is than going to most private schools.

 

Osteopathic Medical Schools

Remember this category does not include health insurance—just tuition and fees for the 2020-21 school year.

  1. Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine/Midwestern University: $74,035
  2. Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine/Midwestern University: $71,833
  3. New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine: $62,066
  4. University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine:$60,690
  5. Western University/College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific: $59,560
  6. A.T. Still University Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine: $59,368
  7. Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine New York: $59,150
  8. California Health Sciences University College of Osteopathic Medicine: $59,125
  9. Sam Houston State University College of Osteopathic Medicine: $59,125
  10. A.T. Still University School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona: $58,802

These schools cover a wide range, but you can certainly spend at least as much money on an osteopathic medical education as a private allopathic education.

 

The Bottom Line

Unless “free medical school” becomes a lot more popular, the average physician is likely to graduate with increasing levels of debt. It's important to come up with an effective long term strategy on how to pay for medical school. Keep in mind there is a dramatic difference between paying $75,000+ per year and paying $25,000 per year. As a general rule, most pre-meds should still choose to attend the least expensive school they can get into.

 

Student loans and the many programs and options are challenging to navigate. If you need help, check out StudentLoanAdvice.com, a WCI company.

 

What do you think? How does your school stack up? Do you think it is worth paying $50,000 a year in tuition and fees? $75,000? $90,000? Comment below!