Letters to the Editor
I greatly appreciate the letter from Mr. Rogalsky, as it offers a medical student’s perspective on physician education debt. The report that my colleagues and I wrote is built on an economic model based on federal statistics and our loan repayment analysis, but when students make financial decisions based on their own unique circumstances, that model is replaced by real numbers. We hope our report offers a helpful perspective as students make such decisions.
There is one misperception about physician education debt in Mr. Rogalsky’s letter. He suggests that “students with above-average debt levels … are more likely to come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.” The data from medical school graduates in 2012 do not support this assertion. As a recent report from the Association of American Medical Colleges, Physician Education Debt and the Cost to Attend Medical School,1 shows, only the incidence of debt varies across students’ self-reported family income levels. According to Table 7 in the report, the median education debt for indebted graduates in the highest family income quintile is comparable to that of those in the lowest.
Regarding the presumed disincentive of extended repayment that Mr. Rogalsky mentions, in my experience, the total interest paid for a home, assuming a conventional 30-year fixed mortgage, does not seem to deter home buyers, although purchasing a home differs in several respects from financing a medical education, and the current interest rates for each investment certainly differ.
Ultimately, the most important perspective on this topic is that of medical students. Therefore, it is encouraging that he considers a primary care physician “the calling our society needs most.” I wish Mr. Rogalsky well as he manages his education debt and enters the specialty-choosing phase of his medical education.
James “Jay” Youngclaus, MS
Senior education analyst, Association of American Medical Colleges, Washington, DC; firstname.lastname@example.org.