(LOS ANGELES) — A lucky group of medical students at the University of California, Los Angeles will get a free ride, thanks to a $100 million donation by the billionaire entertainment executive and philanthropist David Geffen.
The money will be used to create a scholarship fund for aspiring doctors at UCLA’s medical school, which was renamed The David Geffen School of Medicine after its benefactor made an unrestricted gift of $200 million 10 years ago.
“The cost of a world-class medical education should not deter our future innovators, doctors and scientists from the path they hope to pursue,” Geffen said in a statement. “We need the students at this world-class institution to be driven by determination and the desire to do their best work and not by the fear of crushing debt. I hope in doing this that others will be inspired to do the same.”
Medical school debt load continues to grow, with 86 percent of med students racking up $170,000 or more in loans to get their degrees, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. Tuition at UCLA is approximately $38,000 per year — $67,000 when all other expenses are counted, according to the faculty.
As tuition and the cost of living continue to rise, the total cost for medical students beginning their studies in 2013 could be more than $300,000 over four years.
Geffen’s donation, the school said, will cover tuition, room and board, books, supplies, and other expenses for up to 33 students each year — a fifth of the 163 med-school openings at UCLA. The scholarships will be merit-based and not consider financial need.
Admission to the medical school is already highly competitive, with over 7,500 applying each year for those 163 spots. This new scholarship program could increase the number of applications and entice accepted applicants to choose the school over others.
“With this game-changing gift, Mr. Geffen has invested in the medical education and training of some of the world’s brightest and most talented young people, influencing medical research and patient care for generations to come,” UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said in a statement.
Graduating medical students face career choices, and right now the highest-paying fields of medicine, such as radiology, are the most popular and competitive. It may be partly because educational debt pushes young doctors to enter more lucrative fields. Experts think this could be contributing to the lack of primary care physicians in the U.S.
Other notable donations to medical schools include Kennith Langone’s $100 million gift to the NYU Langone Medical Center in 2008, and Carl Ichan’s gift of $200 million to the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. Geffen’s UCLA scholarship-specific fund is described by school officials as “unprecedented.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio