Getting into medical school can be quite a challenge. Prospective students work hard to build a well-rounded background that will appeal to to the college of their choice, knowing that their chance of acceptance is 8.3% overall, and an abysmal 4% or less at top-tier schools. Harvard, ranked number one, accepted 3.9% of applicants, 226 of 5, 804 hopefuls. State schools are far cheaper to attend and offer a better chance of acceptance, 44% of applicants.
Some students who are turned away remained determined to achieve their goals, and one way to do that is by applying to a school in another country. How does a foreign medical education compare to a U.S. education? The answers might surprise you.
The cost of attending medical school varies widely both inside and outside the U.S. Once tuition, fees, and the cost of living are figured in, American private schools come in on the high end of the scale and state colleges land in the middle. Average medical student debt ranges from $70K for medical students in Poland to $200K for medical students in Australia and Ireland.
- Nearly 90% of U.S. student loans for medical schools outside the U.S. go to Caribbean medical schools, popular for proximity to home, tropical beach locations, and reasonable cost, which compares favorably to the mid-range schools in the U.S.
- Medical schools in Mexico are cheap and so is the cost of living, but the high crime rate must also be taken into consideration.
Canada might be an appealing low-cost option if prospective Canadian med students were not saddled with similar issues faced by those in the U.S., more aspirants than programs.
- The cost of attending schools in Europe range from very inexpensive Poland to astronomical prestigious schools such as St. Andrews University in Ireland…which costs over $250K in tuition alone, but comes with guaranteed admission to the University of Edinburgh for post-graduate studies.
- The average student expenses in the Middle East are comparably low, but there are cultural and language hurdles.
Are international medical schools worth the cost?
With student debt at the forefront of the national conversation, ROI – return on investment – is a natural concern. Between 1998 and 2008, the total loaned to U.S. students attending foreign medical schools was $1.5 billion, which represents less than 1% of all federal student lending. Participating schools are required to meet certain requirements. One of those requirements, and a good measure of the school’s success rate, is the student pass percentage for the USMLE. In 2010, Congress increased the USMLE must-pass rate from 60% to 75%. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimates that, while most schools meet the old standard, only 11% are likely to meet the new standards to be eligible for the federal lending program. The report looked at 218 schools in nine countries popular with American students.
According to a press release from one of the more popular Caribbean medical schools, Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM), their 2012 USMLE Step 1 pass rate is 96% on the first try. This is marginally better than the pass rate for students attending medical school within the U.S.
Another indication of education value is the number of students who secure a place in residency programs. RUSM reports that 733 recent graduates obtained residencies at U.S. hospitals in 2013.