$1B gift to Bronx medical school provides students with free tuition in perpetuity

This week, Albert Einstein College of Medicine announced that it has received a $1 billion donation, which “will ensure that no student at Einstein will have to pay tuition again,” according to a college press release. All current fourth-year students will be reimbursed for their spring 2024 semester tuition, and as of August, all Einstein students moving forward will be eligible for free tuition.

Ruth L. Gottesman, a 93-year-old former Einstein professor and the current board chair at the medical school, made the donation after her late husband, Wall Street financier David S. Gottesman—a Warren Buffet protégé, an early investor in Buffet’s multinational conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway, and the founder of the Wall Street investment house First Manhattan—left her a portfolio of Berkshire Hathaway stock upon his death, The New York Times and NBC News report. The couple previously donated $25 million to Einstein in 2008, according to Higher Ed Dive.

Einstein is the second tuition-free medical school in New York. In 2018, New York University announced it would provide free tuition to medical students.

‘Access is the path to excellence’

Founded in 1955, Albert Einstein College is located in the Bronx, which ranks as the unhealthiest county in New York state and New York City’s poorest borough. Tuition at Einstein is more than $61,000 per academic year. Nearly half of Einstein medical students are New Yorkers, and almost 60% are women. Among its current medical students, 48% are white, 29% are Asian, 11% are Latine, and 5% are Black. The average medical school graduate in the U.S. owes $202,453, excluding undergraduate debt, according to the Education Data Initiative.

“We have terrific medical students, but this will open it up for many other students whose economic status is such that they wouldn’t even think about going to medical school,” Gottesman told the Times. “That’s what makes me very happy about this gift,” she added.

Gottesman joined Einstein’s Children’s Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center (CERC) in 1968 as director of psychoeducational services, where she developed a widely used screening test for children with learning disabilities. In 1992, she founded the Adult Literacy Program at CERC, a first of its kind; and became the founding director of the Emily Fisher Landau Center for the Treatment of Learning Disabilities (at CERC) in 1998. Gottsman is also Clinical Professor Emerita of Pediatrics (Developmental Medicine) at Einstein.

“I believe we can change health care history when we recognize that access is the path to excellence,” said Philip O. Ozuah, M.D., Ph.D., president and CEO of Montefiore Einstein, Einstein’s affiliated hospital. “With this gift, Dr. Gottesman will fund excellence in perpetuity and secure our foundational mission of advancing human health.”

For Samuel Woo, a first-year Einstein student, the prospect of tuition-free medical school means he can pursue his passion, he tells The Associated Press. Originally set on becoming a cardiologist so he could pay off his medical debt, Woo, a 23-year-old whose parents immigrated from Korea, says he will now be able to focus on serving the medical needs of people living on the street.

“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 said. “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.”

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