Letters to the Editor  |   May 2008
Award-Winning Debt-Management Education
Author Affiliations
  • Kathleen H. Goeppinger, PhD
    Midwestern University Glendale, Ariz
    President and Chief Executive Officer
Article Information
Medical Education / Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology / Psychiatry / Graduate Medical Education
Letters to the Editor   |   May 2008
Award-Winning Debt-Management Education
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, May 2008, Vol. 108, 233-264. doi:10.7556/jaoa.2008.108.5.233
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, May 2008, Vol. 108, 233-264. doi:10.7556/jaoa.2008.108.5.233
To the Editor:  
I read with interest the letter to the editor published in the February 2008 issue of JAOA—The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association titled, “Debt control for young DOs.”1 Like the letter writer, I am concerned about the increasing debt loads faced by graduates of osteopathic medical schools. In fact, at Midwestern University's two colleges of osteopathic medicine, we strive to provide comprehensive debt-management education and counseling to all of our students. 
Unfortunately, Ethan Wagner, DO,1 made some assumptions about Midwestern University's financial planning programs based on the December 2007 Money Magazine article “Young doctors in debt,”2 that are simply untrue. Indeed, in 2006, the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine (MWU/CCOM) in Downers Grove, Ill, received an Excellence in Debt Management Award from United Student Aid Funds, Inc,3 and the Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine (MWU/AZCOM) in Glendale now has an identical program. This award reflects the outstanding work done by Midwestern University's Office of Student Financial Services in providing financial literacy programs to our students—from the time they are applicants to the day they graduate. Our programs cover such topics as adjusting standards of living, financial planning for couples, orienting students regarding financial considerations related to clinical rotations, and loan repayment and consolidation options. In addition, many of our students take advantage of our open-door, one-on-one financial counseling sessions. 
The emphasis of Midwestern University's financial literacy programs is to help our students make informed decisions about their living expenses, which they often fund through student loans that go above and beyond the cost of tuition. At Midwestern University, we agree with Dr Wagner that students need to be very careful about the money they take out in the form of student loans because they will someday have to pay back these loans with interest. With this reality in mind, the estimated budget guidelines that Midwestern University provides students to cover housing, food, transportation, and other incidental costs are quite reasonable. However, some students choose to take out more than our recommended amounts in the form of private loans, which substantially increase their debt burdens on graduation. 
Dr Wagner is correct in stating that medical education is expensive. However, the rate of tuition at most private medical schools, including Midwestern University, covers only about 70% of the actual cost of providing a medical education.4 The expense of attracting and retaining qualified faculty, building and maintaining necessary academic facilities, obtaining and funding outstanding clinical rotations (including clinical faculty salaries), and providing needed student services must all be factored in the cost of tuition. To assume that tuition costs are linked only to the salaries of executive leadership is not only shortsighted, it is simply incorrect. 
Finally, it is important to note that the default rate on student loans for Midwestern University graduates is consistently less than 0.05%. Our alumni are able to manage their debt and pay back their loans. Contrary to Dr Wagner's assertion that the young osteopathic physician featured in the Money Magazine article2 made a poor decision to attend MWU/CCOM instead of a public allopathic medical school, we believe that this alumnus made an excellent decision—as reflected in his ability to gain a competitive residency in anesthesiology in the Chicago-land area. Clearly, the quality education he received at MWU/CCOM will bode well for him throughout his medical career. 
At Midwestern University, we are proud of the financial literacy programs that we offer to our students. We recognize the problem of rising student debt, and we are doing our part to make sure that our students have the tools necessary to make informed decisions about their financial futures. 
Wagner E. Debt control for young DOs [letter]. JAm Osteopath Assoc. 2008;108:53,81. Available at: Accessed April 14, 2008.
Mannes G. Young doctors in debt. Money Magazine. December 2007:120-126. Available at: Accessed April 14, 2008.
2006 USA Funds Excellence in Debt Management Awards: Midwestern University; June 20, 2006. USA Funds Web site. Available at: Accessed April 14, 2008.
American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine. 2006 Annual Statistical Report on Osteopathic Medical Education. Chevy Chase, Md: American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine; February 2007. Available at: Accessed April 14, 2008.