Albert Einstein College of Medicine will go tuition free after $1B donation

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Dive Brief:

  • Albert Einstein College of Medicine, in New York, will offer free tuition following a $1 billion donation from its board chair — a gift the institution called the largest ever to an American medical school. 
  • The Bronx institution, which is affiliated with New York’s Montefiore Health system, will go tuition free beginning in August, according to a Monday announcement. It will also reimburse all fourth-year students for their spring 2024 semester tuition. 
  • The donor, Ruth Gottesman, is a former professor at the medical school and current member of the Montefiore board. She is also the widow of Wall Street financier David Gottesman. The couple previously donated $25 million to the college in 2008.

Dive Insight:

Gottesman told The New York Times that the gift will enable the institution’s students to graduate without medical school debt and expand its classes to include those who couldn’t afford to attend otherwise.

Her donation and its intended use reflects an emerging trend of medical schools seeking to go tuition free. 

New York University announced in 2018 it would offer full scholarships to all medical students. Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine, affiliated with the Kaiser Permanente health system, opened in 2020 with the promise of free tuition for its first five incoming classes. 

The first-year class at Albert Einstein has 183 students — 59% of them are women and nearly half are from New York. 

This donation radically revolutionizes our ability to continue attracting students who are committed to our mission, not just those who can afford it,” Dr. Yaron Tomer, dean at the college, said in a statement. Additionally, it will free up and lift our students, enabling them to pursue projects and ideas that might otherwise be prohibitive.”

Gifts of this size are rare, but not completely unheard of. 

In 2018, Michael Bloomberg, a businessman and former mayor of New York, pledged $1.8 billion to Johns Hopkins University, his alma mater, to create a need-based student aid fund.

In 2022, Stanford University received a $1.1 billion donation to create a school of sustainability. And last year, McPherson College, a small liberal arts college in Kansas, received an anonymous $1 billion donation to its endowment. 

But medical schools have not traditionally seen donations of this size. Exceptions include a $300 million donation to Western Michigan University’s medical program in 2021 as part of a larger gift, and a $75 million gift to Harvard University’s medical school early last year. 

Donations to U.S. colleges totaled about $58 billion in fiscal 2023, according to the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. It was the second-highest year for donations after 2022, and institutions saw an increase in donations over $100 million.

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