tampabay.com

UCF will pay tab for med students

The first class will get the perk as the school tries to lure some of the brightest.

By SHANNON COLAVECCHIO-VAN SICKLER
Published June 12, 2007


The University of Central Florida's medical school isn't even built yet, but already it's making history.

In a move that appears to be a national first, UCF plans to pay the full ride for its entire inaugural class of 40 medical students.

Any student admitted into the medical school in 2009 would get a four-year scholarship of more than $160, 000 to cover tuition and living expenses, under a money-raising campaign to be announced at UCF's main campus in Orlando today.

"It's unprecedented, " said the medical school dean, Dr. Deborah German, a 1976 Harvard Medical School graduate who held positions at Vanderbilt and Duke universities.

"I do not know of any school that has offered an entire class of students a full scholarship."

Two Orlando-area business leaders, to be identified during a news conference this morning, donated an unspecified amount toward the $6.4-million initiative. Now UCF officials have two years to raise the rest of the money.

German said she's confident UCF can do it - given how community leaders lobbied to get state approval for the medical school last year, and given the success of UCF's past fundraising.

UCF ended its first-ever capital campaign last fall with $356-million donated - far more than the $250-million goal. About $80-million was for the medical school.

German got a full scholarship to Harvard Medical School, "and it made all the difference, " she said. "I want to offer the same gift that others offered to me.

"We want to make sure that our first class of students is free of those kind of worries about finances and can focus on their studies, " she said.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, a nonprofit group representing all 125 accredited U.S. medical schools, graduates last year had accumulated an average debt of more than $120, 000 during their medical school years.

"It's like you've already bought your first house, " German said. "You have a mortgage already."

The UCF scholarships will be worth more than $160, 000 per student - $20, 000 in annual tuition, based on Florida resident rates, plus $20, 000 in annual living expenses. UCF officials intend to seek other funds to cover any additional costs for out-of-state students admitted into the inaugural class, said UCF spokeswoman Zenaida Gonzalez Kotala.

Gonzalez Kotala said that while the plan so far is to provide scholarships for just the inaugural class, the effort could be expanded depending on the program's success.

While other public and private medical schools offer full scholarships, they typically do so on a student-by-student basis. The University of Michigan's medical school offers about 10 full scholarships a year to incoming students, for example.

The University of South Florida's medical school has about $1.25-million available each year for full and partial scholarships, said Steve Specter, associate dean for student affairs and admissions.

UCF's initiative stands apart because it's a guaranteed perk of admission for an entire class. Administrators hope it helps attract plenty of strong applicants to UCF's fledgling, untested program.

"Any startup has the concern that it doesn't have a track record, " German said. "I hope prospective students will take note. We're really about trying to build the best medical school we can."

UCF got approval for its medical school last year, as did Florida International University in Miami.

UCF plans to start classes in July 2009 and will start taking applications once it gets preliminary accreditation. That could happen as early as February, after a review team from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education visits the school and examines its plans for curriculum, faculty and student services.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Shannon Colavecchio-Van Sickler can be reached at svansickler@sptimes.com or 813 226-3403.

Fast Facts:

Tuition, fees at state med schools

University of Florida: $21, 117, Florida resident/ $50, 357, nonresident.

Florida State: $18, 942, resident/$52, 160, nonresident.

University of South Florida: $19, 336, resident/$50, 556, nonresident.

University of Central Florida: $20, 000, resident/ nonresident rate not yet set.

Source: Association of American Medical Colleges

Tuition and fees at state universities

University of Florida: $21, 117 for Florida residents/ $50, 357 for non-resident.

Florida State: $18, 942, resident/$52, 160, non-resident.

University of South Florida: $19, 336, resident/$50, 556, non-resident.

University of Central Florida: $20, 000, resident/non-resident rate not yet set.

Source: Association of American Medical Colleges