House Bill Seeks to Cut Loans to Off-Shore Med Schools
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) Two members of the House of Representatives introduced a companion bill to Senate legislation this month that would cut millions of dollars in federal aid to Caribbean medical schools that have been criticized for the debt burden their U.S. students bear and the sub-standard training that they receive.
Reps. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) and Carol Shea-Porter (D-New Hampshire) said their bill, the House version of Dick Durbin's (D-Illinois) Senate bill, would close a loophole that allows for-profit colleges to operate medical schools off-shore with federal funds.
"These schools are not accredited by the Department of Education-approved bodies and are not required to meet the standards of other foreign medical schools," Durbin wrote in a letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan last month. "But they are still eligible for federal Title IV funds." Title IV funds consist of loans and grants authorized by the Higher Education Act. A total of five Caribbean medical schools would be subject to Durbin's proposed law. Four are owned by for-profit corporations.
Durbin cited a report by Bloomberg Markets last September that over $450 million in federal funds went to two DeVry medical schools last year: Ross University School of Medicine and American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine. "It is my understanding that they were able to do this because of a 1992 loophole that allowed a small number of foreign medical schools to qualify for federal funds under lower standards than other medical schools," Durbin said.
Durbin's Foreign Medical School Accountability Fairness Act would close the loophole in the current law by requiring that all medical schools outside of the U.S. and Canada have at least a 60% enrollment of non-U.S. citizens and that the pass rate on the U.S. Medical Licensing Exam be at least 75% in order to get federal funding. Students at these off-shore med schools are believed to be virtually all Americans.
Ernie Gibble, senior director of global communications at DeVry Education Group, said these legislative efforts would deprive legitimate applicants of a medical career. "The Senator's bill, which limits the number of U.S. citizens at international medical schools to 40% of enrollees, would leave thousands of highly qualified U.S. college graduates without an option for medical school," he said.
Ross med school graduates, Gibble added, "have an 84% residency placement rate and American University of the Caribbean graduates have 82% much higher than the 53% residency placement rates of foreign-trained doctors cited by the Senator." Both DeVry med schools are located on Dominica, a Caribbean island nation. The DeVry Education group is based in Downers Grove, Illinois.
Bloomberg said DeVry students are prone to quit during the first two semesters, leaving with loans but no degree. The average attrition rate at U.S. med schools was 3% for the class of 2008, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. Bloomberg says DeVry's rate ranges from 20 to 27%, citing DeVry's own figures.