WEST VILLAGE, NY — New York University will begin offering its medical students free tuition — a first among the nation’s major medical schools, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

Rising tuition and pupils saddled with six-figure loans have pushed students toward higher-paying fields and school officials fear it has led to a lack of researchers and primary care physicians, said one university official.

“There’s really a moral imperative to reduce the amount of debt people have,” Dr. Rafael Rivera, associate dean for admission and financial aid, told The Journal.

The university has raised more than $450 million of the approximately $600 million it estimates will be needed to fund students’ tuition in perpetuity. That figured includes $100 million from Home Depot founder Kenneth Langone and his wife, Elaine, the newspaper reported.

Across the country, 72 percent of graduates from the class of 2018 have staggering levels of debt from medical school with a median of $195,000 in loans, according to student surveys by the Association of American Medical Colleges. More than one third of medical students who enter programs with student loans from prior college or universities.

Roughly 62 percent of NYU medical school’s most recent graduating class had student loans averaging $171,908 for medical school and $184,000 in total. Yet even with the tuition scholarships most students will need to pay approximately $29,000 in annual room, board and other living expenses, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Tuition had been set at $55,018 for the coming year.

Photo courtesy of Maria Cormack-Pitts/Patch

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