Melanie Hansen / Educational Data Initiative

When I went to medical school 40 years ago, the annual tuition was $5,500. Accounting for inflation, that would be $20,000 today. Yet, tuition for in-state residents at the University of Connecticut’s medical school is $47,673 and $81,753 for those coming out of state. The annual tuition for the Frank H. Netter M.D. School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University is $60,210. And these tuitions are typical across the country.

Joseph Bentivegna MD

As medical school is a four year program, the result of these outrageous tuitions is average medical school debt per student of $215,000. Mine was $27,000. And this problem extends to other professionals, many of whom do not have the same earning potential as medical doctors. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal “…dentists earned a median $164,000, and chiropractors earned a median $71,000, which is not enough to cover most debt loads from professional degrees that are over $200,000.”

Much of the discussion on this problem centers on the easy availability of loans coupled with their inflationary impact on tuitions. Thus the political solutions revolve around capping the lending amount while allowing loan forgiveness with the taxpayers picking up the bill.

But another factor is being ignored – accreditation committees.

Unbeknownst to the average voter, professional schools – medical, nursing, law, optometry, dental, chiropractic etc. – are beholden to accreditation committees that determine whether a school can survive. Without accreditation, students from that school are not eligible for loans and are prohibited from taking the tests for licensure – meaning they cannot work.

For example, the accreditation committee of medical schools, the LCME (Liaison Committee on Medical Education) requires “A medical school has in place a sufficient cohort of faculty members with the qualifications and time required to deliver the medical curriculum…”

But many medical school courses – biochemistry, physiology, pharmacology etc. – could be placed on computerized videos with interactive learning. Why do these students have to be whacked tens of thousands of dollars yearly for an anachronistic system of classroom lectures based on a time when this technology did not exist? Why should the students be shackled by debt to support the high salaries and fat pensions of the lecturing professors? Many of our young doctors are minorities who do not come from wealthy backgrounds. Is this fair?

The vast majority of professionals will tell you they learned very little in the classroom. They honed their skills with mentors and then by repetitive dealing with the same problems until they mastered their profession.

While there must be reform in the student loan programs, legislation must be passed to prevent these subterranean accreditation committees from advancing the economic interests of professional school administrators, bureaucrats and teachers and the expense of the younger generation.

Many baby boomers wonder why so many young people embrace socialism. I recently had a physician assistant student follow me in my office for a day to learn about ophthalmology. He told me that he and his wife – who was studying to be a physical therapist – would graduate with a combined debt of $400,000! How can this young couple afford to buy a house? How can they afford to have children? If I had been scammed at this age buy the avaricious older generation, I would be a socialist too.

Joseph Bentivegna MD is an ophthalmologist in Rocky Hill.