With medical school being rather expensive, some colleges are working to enact programs that make it more affordable. 

Finding a way to pay for an undergraduate degree without taking on student loan debt is a challenge for many students. With that in mind, figuring out how to pay for medical school without student loans can seem impossible.

Attending medical school leaves over 70 percent of medical students with massive student loan debt, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. The average student loan balance for medical school graduates is nearly $200,000; this figure exceeds $200,000 for borrowers who attend a private medical college.

Although that’s a far cry from the $1 million that one orthodontist featured in the news reportedly owes, it’s obvious that medical school debt can be a huge burden for many healthcare professionals.

Because medical students graduate with such a large amount of debt, most opt to take high-paying jobs in order to pay back their loans quicker. But this can cause a shortage of primary care and small-town physicians. The good news is that some schools are taking steps toward making medical school more affordable.

For instance, the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University announced in April it will launch a scholarship program to help cut down on student loan debt. Roughly half of the school’s students use financial aid to pay for their tuition and living expenses.

The new scholarship program will replace all of the student loans with scholarships. This means roughly 20 percent of students will receive full-tuition scholarships. The scholarship program was made possible by a $150 million endowment gift from Dr. P. Roy and Diana Vagelos, who the school is named after.

Analysis Shows Hiring Debt Collectors is a Waste of Money

Of course, many colleges won’t have a large endowment fund to fall back on. However, there are other ways to cut down on expenses.

For instance, the Ponce Health Sciences University in Puerto Rico is trying to cut down on costs by digitizing its curriculum. This has allowed the school to keep both tuition and faculty costs down, according to U.S. News.

Meanwhile, Tufts University offers a loan repayment assistance program to the entire school. The school offers qualifying graduates money to help them repay their student loans; roughly 14 percent of recipients are medical students. Tufts University School of Medicine also increased the number of scholarships given by 400 percent over the past decade. 

And the University of California-Riverside will offer two years of free medical school to participants who agree to practice in certain medical fields. Students selected will have to commit to practicing in certain high-need disciplines for at least 30 months.

It remains to see if more schools will follow suit and begin offering similar programs, especially if these types of programs prove to be successful. Despite this push for improving affordability, many students will need to scrounge for student loans to pay for medical school. It can be a tough equation to solve; to make it easier, check out this guide by The Student Loan Report, detailing the ins and outs of handling medical school student loans during repayment.