Why is the School of Medicine’s Alumni Association’s Giving Day appeal scholarship focused?
All of us have read of the $1.4 trillion, yes trillion, U.S. student loan debt, making higher-education acquired debt second only to mortgage loan debt in our nation; something that was unheard of even a generation ago. Many of you who are reading this, Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, worked your way through college and perhaps even medical or PA school, graduating with little to no debt. Sadly, that feat is virtually impossible for the current crop of students and recent graduates. At the University of Utah the average debt for a 2020 graduating PA was $123,000, for a graduating MD, $191,292, not including undergraduate debt.
Paying off a debt like this can be particularly taxing for students who interested in working in lower-paying fields like community medicine, primary care, or a rural medicine practice. It is the reason the School of Medicine Alumni Association’s key focus is on assisting our current students with scholarship support.
But, you may be asking, how did we end up in this predicament? There are numerous reasons, part being a steep decline in state funding of public higher education while tuition costs to students continue to rise. Another issue is the demand of individuals interested in achieving a higher ed degree has grown substantially over the past three decades. Nationally college tuition has increased eight times faster than wages since 1990, while housing and other cost of living indicators have also increased dramatically.
The past few years the University of Utah has endeavored to keep the tuition and fees increase close to the annual inflation rate of 2%, but for many years this was closer to 4-5%, making the price increase even more significant for students and graduates. Some of this in medicine is likely due to the advancement in technology and its cost, and to a change in teaching styles from a more didactic method to smaller cohort, hands-on teaching models.
Whatever the reasons, brighter minds than mine will need to figure out how to deal with the bigger issue of student loan debt, but we, members of the School of Medicine Alumni Relations team, want to help as much as we can in this time when students find themselves caught between higher education costs and shrinking or stable income potential. We need all young people who are interested and capable of pursuing the challenging career of medicine to be able to do so and graduate without a crippling debt load. That is why we are focusing our University of Utah Giving Day appeal on scholarship. If you wish to assist with this effort, log-in to Giving Day on Feb. 23 and 24 and give back to the School of Medicine to support our future PA’s and physicians.