New York Medical School Becomes Tuition-free And Changes Students’ Lives With $1B Donation

Aiexpress – Samuel Woo, a first-year student, had been exploring a career in cardiology to help pay off his medical school debt until this week’s revelation of a generous contribution that will eliminate tuition expenses at his New York City school.

The 23-year-old, whose parents emigrated from South Korea, said Tuesday that he may now follow his passion of giving medical services to homeless people without worrying about incurring heavy college debt.

“I was definitely very emotional, and it changes a lot,” said Woo, who had been working as a tutor and at a cafe to supplement his income.

Ruth Gottesman, a former Albert Einstein College of Medicine professor and the widow of a Wall Street billionaire, said on Monday that she will donate $1 billion to the Bronx-based school. The gift entitles four-year students to immediate tuition-free status, while everyone else will benefit in the fall.

Another first-year student, Jade Andrade, whose parents immigrated from the Philippines to rural Virginia, had a similar experience.

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“A big wave of relief just came over me and, you know, everyone surrounding me in the auditorium,” Andrade went on to say.

Both students expressed hope that Gottesman’s generous gift would provide opportunities for many low-income students from immigrant families who could not otherwise afford to pursue a career in medicine.

The donation is noteworthy not only for its size—ppossibly the largest to any U.S. medical school, according to Montefiore Einstein, the umbrella organization for Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the Montefiore Health System—bbut also because the school is located in one of the most impoverished areas of the city and state of New York.

“There are people here in the Bronx who are first-generation, low-income students who really want to be doctors and want to pursue medicine and want to practice here, but just aren’t able to have the opportunity, whether that’s financial reasons or lack of resources,” Woo went on to say. “I’m hoping that the free tuition helps alleviate some of the pressure on those students and encourages them to think of medicine as, you know, a potentially acceptable field.”

Andrade, 30, described the announcement as freeing.

“Growing up in an immigrant household, there are very few life decisions that you make without considering the financial aspects, such as, ‘Is this a worthwhile investment of my time?'” “This is something I want to do, but can I afford it?” she asked.

However, once the financial load is removed, “anyone can dream bigger.”

When Gottesman, 93, revealed her donation, stunned students and teachers rose to their feet, clapping, cheering, and even crying. She has been with the college for 55 years and currently serves as its board of trustees chairperson.

School administrators said they hoped free tuition would attract a wide pool of applicants, but they have no plans to change their admissions policy. They stated that the donation should be in perpetuity because the interest earned ensures that the lump sum grows. All students will be eligible for the free tuition.

Tuition at the school is approximately $63,000 per year, leaving graduates with mountains of debt that will take decades to repay. The Education Data Initiative reports that medical graduates exit school with an average debt of $202,453.

Other schools in more affluent communities have also benefited from generous donations.

Kenneth and Elaine Langone donated $100 million to the NYU Grossman School of Medicine in 2018, which was used to establish an endowment fund that would make tuition free for all current and future medical students. In 2023, the Langones donated $200 million to the NYU Grossman Long Island School of Medicine to fund a full-tuition scholarship program and ensure free tuition for all medical students. Kenneth Langone was a co-founder of Home Depot.

UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine provides merit-based scholarships thanks to $146 million in donations from the recording industry billionaire.

Gottesman credited her late husband, David “Sandy” Gottesman, for providing her with the funds to make the donation. David Gottesman established the Wall Street investment firm First Manhattan and served on the board of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. He died in 2022, aged 96.

“I feel blessed to be given the great privilege of making this gift to such a worthy cause,” said Gottesman, a pioneer in the field of learning disabilities.

Woo claimed he called his mother right after the announcement.

“I feel like she asked me a bunch of questions because that’s what immigrant parents do,” he told me. “But afterwards, when I clarified I’m not going to pay for tuition anymore, she was very happy.”

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