Medical school costs a lot…
A little foreword before you read any further and get discouraged. The purpose of this post is to give an honest account and example of the real financial costs of medical school. It is not supposed to dishearten or dissuade anyone from undertaking a medical degree.
Also, please remember I am on an extended medical degree programme, with a minimum of 6 years of study. I then chose to take an additional year to complete an extra iBSc in my fifth year of studying, which was not compulsory. Medical school in the UK take a minimum of 5 years.
For the vast majority of students, including myself, funding your studies at medical school requires taking out a student loan with Student Finance England (SFE).
This loan will cover the cost of your tuition, with a tuition fee loan, and the cost of your living expenses, with a maintenance loan. The exact costs and size of loans will be different for each student depending on your personal financial situation and where you study.
For example, I study at King’s College London and being in London means my living expenses are much higher than the rest of the country. To compensate for this, SFE allows me to borrow more money. All students are eligible for four years of full student loans from SFE.
For students starting this year, the whole of their maintenance money from SFE will be a loan. The amount available varies on location, with those inside London able to borrow up to £11,672 and those outside able to borrow up to £8,944. If you choose to live at home during your studies, you are still able to borrow up to £7,529.
I started my studies in September 2015. This was the last year that SFE offered means-tested maintenance grants, a form of bursary to supplement the maintenance loan of students coming from families with lower incomes. Thankfully, this meant that about £3.5k of my maintenance money was a grant rather than a loan and I don’t have to pay it back. The remaining roughly £6K per year for maintenance was a loan.
Tuition fees are now set at a maximum of £9,250 per year, which all medical schools charge.
In September 2015 the tuition fees at King’s were £9k per year for students from the UK. So, I also took out the maximum tuition fee loan of £9K. This meant that, for the first four years of my studies, I was borrowing roughly £15K per year from SFE.
The NHS Bursary
After your fourth year of medicine you are eligible for the NHS bursary. This is a means-tested bursary covering your tuition fees and a small amount of maintenance for the remaining years of medical school. As of September 2019, I am taking the NHS bursary to cover my tuition fees. However, the maintenance money on the NHS bursary only adds up to about £3k – £4k per year. In order to supplement this, you can also borrow a further untested, lump sum from SFE for maintenance, roughly £8K per year in London.
How much money have I borrowed so far?
As soon as you’ve started borrowing from SFE you can view your outstanding balance and information about your loan through the SFE repayment portal. Be warned before you login though, it can be quite a shock!
What is the interest rate?
SFE currently charges the retail price index (2.4%) plus up to an additional 3% of interest on your outstanding balance annually.
The interest is charged as follows:
- Maximum (5.4%) while you continue to study
- Minimum (2.4%) when earning below the minimum threshold* of repayments
- Between 2.4% and 5.4% when earning between the minimum repayment threshold* and £45k per year.
- Maximum (5.4%) when earning above £45k
*The minimum repayment threshold at the time of writing is £2,143 per month, or £25,725 annually.
Repaying your student loan
The minimum threshold for repaying your student loan are changed each tax year. Check back to the SFE page to see the most up to date information. Currently, they are £2,143 per month or £25,725 per year. Once you start earning above this threshold, SFE will receive 9% of your income over the threshold.
For example, if you were earning £2,246 per month this tax year, then you would be earning £100 over the threshold each month. You would therefore pay £9.00 (9% of £100) per month to SFE.
However, thirty years after your first payment is due (April following graduation), your SFE debt is wiped clean.
What is the minimum cost?
As I’ve previously said, medical school can be completed in 5 years in the UK. With that in mind, and remembering that SFE no longer offers a maintenance loan, lets consider the cheapest medicine could be to a new student.
Lets assume a student was due to start medicine in September 2020, at a university a significant distance from their parents house. Obviously living at home would be a great way to save money, but it is not a realistic option for many students.
Living out of the family home, outside of London, SFE will loan a student £8,944. The tuition fee loan for their tuition costs will be a further £9,250 per year. This adds up to £18,194 per year, for their first four years. After the fourth year of studying, the student will be eligible for the NHS bursary to cover their tuition fees. Additionally they will get roughly £3,000 maintenance from NHS bursaries. In order to maintain their same living expenses as the previous year, they would also have to borrow another £5,944 from SFE.
So, four years of £18,194 from SFE adds up to £72,776. the additional £5,944 in their final year brings the grand total borrowed to £78,720. Now, assuming that the interest rates stat as they currently are, the interest charged each year of studying will bring the grand total at graduation to £93,900.62. (I’ve added 5.4% interest yearly from the first year borrowed until the April after graduation, so this would be the amount owed on 6th April 2025 by a student starting in September 2020 at a university outside of London)
What about inside of London?
For a student studying in London, the maximum maintenance loan is roughly £2,500 more per year. The grand total would be around £15,000 more after 5 years.
Obviously the above is only a very rough approximation, with a lot of assumptions. I have assumed that the student takes out the maximum maintenance loan, that the maximum amount available stays the same, that the rate of interest stays the same and that the cost of tuition remains the same.
I hope that I haven’t dissuaded any potential medical students from starting!
My goal in writing this was to give an honest account of the financial costs of medical school. I have made numerous assumptions when giving examples of the current costs for new medical students, and you really should look at SFE and your medical school’s own websites to find out an accurate estimate of your own medical school.
In my last post I spoke about ways to earn money as a medical student and summer/holiday earning opportunities for students.
How do you feel about the cost of medical school? Are you a future medical student worrying about the money, or a current medical student trying to work out how much your education will cost you? let me know in the comments below! As always, getting in touch with me is easy via the Contact page.