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Funding Graduate Studies in the US

  • Thread starter phyzguy
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phyzguy
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I have a question for this august body, prompted in part by this article. In the US, if I choose to get a PhD in the physical sciences, I receive a stipend that covers my tuition and pays me a modest salary, so that I come out of graduate school debt free. However, if I want to become a medical doctor (MD), I'm on my own and am typically deeply in debt when I finish my education. With the exploding cost of health care, why don't we set up a program similar to that which exists for physics graduate students? We would train more doctors, and since they wouldn't have large debts to pay off, their fees could come down and we could help reduce the rapid growth of medical costs. Any comments?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
eri
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Physics grad students get free tuition because they are teaching classes while working on their PhD or their tuition is being paid by a grant that they or their adviser got for them. Their tuition isn't completely waived, it's paid for by their department. Med schools can't allow medical students to teach classes, and they don't do research, so someone has to pay their tuition and it's going to be the student. Besides, it's much more expensive to educate the average medical student than the average PhD student - we don't necessarily need labs. All my classes were lectures in grad school. That's cheap.
 
  • #3
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The cost of medschool is a supply and demand thing- my sister and I went to the same 4 year college and graduated with roughly the same amount of loan (40k or so) from undergrad.

I went to go graduate school. I didn't incur any more debt, but I was unable to pay down my current debt. After my phd, I worked as a bartender for a short while, and then landed a position doing statistical analysis starting at roughly 80k. I make roughly what my friends who went to work after undergrad do now, and some of them do similar work. This is typical for phds.

She then passed up a 40k a year job to go to medschool, incurring another 200k in debt. After residency, she got a job in the ER,starting at roughly 175k a year for 3- 12 hour shifts a week. Her first year out, she moonlighted another 2 days a week to make extra money to pay down her loans.

We were both debt free roughly 2.5 years out of our respective programs. People will pay a lot to go to medical school because of the opportunity it unlocks. People need to be paid to go to graduate school because you are paying them for the opportunities they've passed up. If colleges thought they could maintain demand if they charged for graduate school, they would do it.
 
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phyzguy
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Physics grad students get free tuition because they are teaching classes while working on their PhD or their tuition is being paid by a grant that they or their adviser got for them. Their tuition isn't completely waived, it's paid for by their department. Med schools can't allow medical students to teach classes, and they don't do research, so someone has to pay their tuition and it's going to be the student. Besides, it's much more expensive to educate the average medical student than the average PhD student - we don't necessarily need labs. All my classes were lectures in grad school. That's cheap.
(1) I don't think the TA'ing that the typical physics grad student does begins to pay for their tuition waiver and stipend. Most of the money comes from government grants. My point is, why not set up similar government grants for med students.

(2) Why couldn't med students do similar TA work? Most of it is homework recitations, grading papers, etc. I don't see why med students couldn't do similar work.

(3) Is it really more expensive to educate a med student? Do you have any references on this? Physics departments have labs, and they're not cheap, and even theoretical departments typically have large computer networks to maintain. I don't see whay the cost shoudl be that different.
 
  • #5
phyzguy
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The cost of medschool is a supply and demand thing
That's my whole point. The supply of available positions in med schools is low, so we aren't educating enough doctors. The demand is high because doctors make a lot of money. So the med schools are able to charge a lot, and the doctors can make a lot of money when they get out and pay it back. As a society, wouldn't we be better off if we expanded the supply through subsidizing the cost of education, like we do for physics PhD's? There would then be more doctors, and the overall cost of medical care would drop. Why wouldn't this be a good thing to do?
 
  • #6
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(1) I don't think the TA'ing that the typical physics grad student does begins to pay for their tuition waiver and stipend. Most of the money comes from government grants.
That's false. Not only does TA money come from the department, it is actually illegal to use research grants to pay for TAs or anything but research.

Why couldn't med students do similar TA work? Most of it is homework recitations, grading papers, etc. I don't see why med students couldn't do similar work.
  1. Time spent TAing is time not spent pursuing the MD, so the degree takes even longer.
  2. TAs do this for undergrads. Med schools don't have undergrads.


Is it really more expensive to educate a med student? Do you have any references on this?
Why don't you look this up? Many universities have their budgets online.
 
  • #7
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You can't expand the supply of available positions in med school just by subsidizing them. If students were paid to go to medical school, there would just be a whole lot more people applying. Plus, you need actual doctors to teach all these new students, and actual hospitals for them to finish the studies in...

I think it's kind of an interesting concept - the government grants money to some student to go to med school, with the promise that that student would charge low prices after graduation... but overall, it's not really entirely up to a doctor to set their prices. There are all kinds of complicated medical billing and insurance issues here that I don't understand. Add that to the fact that doctors like being paid a lot, and thus, there is a pressure from within the community to keep the pool small (you can see this effect on medical physicists trying to get through the ABR bottleneck)... Anyway, I think there is definitely room for improvement within the medical field, but I don't think that simply paying for students to go to med school would be the solution.
 
  • #8
phyzguy
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Add that to the fact that doctors like being paid a lot, and thus, there is a pressure from within the community to keep the pool small
Of course they like getting paid a lot! Don't we all? But is this situation good for our society? Should we let the medical community continue to act in this way, or would we be better off as a society if we acted against this current situation to expand the supply of doctors to bring down the cost of medical care?
 
  • #9
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Of course they like getting paid a lot! Don't we all? But is this situation good for our society? Should we let the medical community continue to act in this way, or would we be better off as a society if we acted against this current situation to expand the supply of doctors to bring down the cost of medical care?
I'm not saying it's necessarily good for society, just that it is a force to be considered when formulating your plan. That said, I'm not against highly trained professionals being well paid.

But more importantly, I would also question the assumption that it is the lack of available doctors which causes medical costs to be so high.
 
  • #10
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If this thread is about "the good of society", it's not career guidance. Locked.
 

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