BOCA RATON, Fla. — Florida Atlantic University is making strides to encourage more students to enter the medical field by alleviating some of the financial burden.
A historic donation to FAU is meeting a pressing need across Florida. Thursday the College of Medicine announced a $28 million gift to support scholarships.
The dollars come at a critical time as student debt for medical students soars to new heights.
"The average student debt is $215,900 dollars," said Ivan Grela, who is wrapping his first year at FAU's College of Medicine. "I see medicine as the cornerstone of society. I think it’s the most noble profession someone can do."
Grela is passionate about helping others and grateful for a scholarship to make that possible. It covers half of his tuition, but he’s still facing a six-figure debt upon graduation.
"It lightened up my spirits a lot. It made me a lot more excited to come to medical school because, while I do have to take a lot of loans, it’s way less," Grela said.
Graduating in the red is a tough reality for prospective medical students, turning many away from the field during a critical time.
Florida is expected to be short nearly 18,000 physicians over the next 12 years, a challenge as the state’s population expands…
It also affects the specialties that people go into. We know we need primary care doctors in this region and debt precludes people from going into those fields. And we want people to go into the field that they want to, that they’re best going to meet the needs in our community by alleviating that debt," said Dr. Julie Pilitsis, the dean of FAU's College of Medicine.
The FAU College of Medicine has a goal to alleviate debt for all of its students in the next four years, but is calling on community support to make that possible.
FAU received the $28 million estate pledge from John and Ann Wood, a local Boca Raton couple.
This transformative gift in memory of their son, Robert A. Wood, will create the opportunity for a debt-free tuition for aspiring physicians.
They hope the Robert A. Wood FAU Medical Scholars Fund will inspire others to join in and increase scholarship support to cover the tuition of every FAU medical school student.
The current cost of in-state tuition and fees per medical student for one year is $35,000, which amounts to $140,000 for four years.
Students from outside of Florida also may participate and will receive a scholarship for the in-state tuition rate.