Applicants put off grad school in tough economy

A survey found medical students are less likely to decline admission.

As students across the country agonize over finding ways to pay for college in a down economy, a recent survey found medical school applicants are less likely than others to decline admissions because of financial reasons. The survey found an overall increase in students declining admissions to graduate and professional schools for financial reasons, but found medical schools were least affected. In 2009, 20 percent of medical school admissions officers reported an increase of applicants declining admissions for financial reasons compared to 2008, according to the survey. This compares to 28 percent of admissions officers at MBA programs and 39 percent at law schools. More law and business students are postponing graduate school because those programs are more flexible than the predetermined pathways for medical students, said Jeff Koetje, director of pre-health programs for Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions. “With the flexibility comes the opportunity [for students] to say ‘this is not the right time for me,’ ” he said. Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions surveyed 82 Association of American Medical Colleges and compiled the results, which were released last month. “It’s never good news to learn that more students are saying no to graduate school because of financial reasons and because of the economy,” Koetje said. The cost of attending medical school at the University of Minnesota, including tuition, fees, books and room and board, is about $40,000 per year for in-state students. Nick Wallace, director of admissions for the University’s Law School, said tuition costs are often an issue for students, but it generally doesn’t affect their decision to attend law school. The University’s Law School, which costs $25,324 a year for resident tuition, received a 29 percent increase in applications in 2008, Wallace said. More than 90 percent of Law School students receive some form of financial aid in loans or scholarships. “Affordability is always on the minds of students, and financial aid is important,” Wallace said. Koetje noted that medical students are less impacted by education costs because many of them have been planning to become doctors since childhood. “It’s been on their mind for a long time, so they’re not caught off guard by changes in the economy.” Phillip Radke, a second-year University medical student, said he wasn’t concerned about financial costs when he first applied to medical school because he was already aware of the high tuition costs. “Most people go into the process knowing that medical school costs hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he said. “You will be taking out loans, and it’s going to cost a lot of money.” Radke mainly uses loans to pay for his education. He said he entered medical school under the assumption that someday he will have the ability to pay off those loans.