Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation to Ensure All Foreign Medical Schools Are Held to Same Standards

2013 investigation by Bloomberg Markets revealed offshore loophole that off-shore medical schools have been exploiting to access additional federal funding

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] - U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) joined U.S. Representatives Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Michael Burgess (R-TX) today to introduce bipartisan, bicameral legislation that would save taxpayer dollars and protect students by closing a loophole that gives special treatment to a small number of medical schools in the Caribbean that, in 2012, took in more than $450 million in U.S. Department of Education Title IV funding – two-thirds of all Title IV dollars that go to foreign medical schools. 


The Foreign Medical School Accountability Fairness Act would require all foreign medical schools to meet the same minimum requirements.  This simple fix would apply the following two requirements to all medical schools outside of the U.S. and Canada: at least 60% of the enrollment must be non-U.S. citizens or permanent residents and students must have at least a 75% pass rate on the U.S. Medical Licensing Exam. 


“A loophole in current law allows for-profit medical schools in the Caribbean to enroll large percentages of American students – and profit from hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars – without meeting the same quality standards of instruction as medical schools in the U.S. or the basic requirements of all other foreign medical schools,” said Senator Durbin.  “Our bill to close that loophole has broad support among the U.S. medical school community and now is supported by members from both parties in both chambers.  As Congress continues work on the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, I hope this bipartisan bill will be part of the discussion.”


“There are reports that some foreign medical schools inappropriately use taxpayer dollars. By fixing a loophole, we can ensure these schools are held to the same standards as every other school,” said Senator Bill Cassidy M.D. 


“This is about leveling the playing field and improving student quality,” said Representative Burgess. “If medical schools outside the U.S. are going to receive federal money, they need to meet the standards of education those taxpayer dollars were meant to fund. We must close this loophole to disallow foreign schools from accessing huge amounts of federal dollars at the expense of education and doctor quality.”


“I am pleased to join my colleagues in introducing this important piece of legislation that will close a loophole that has left students open to exploitation for too long,” said Congressman Cummings.  “This bill would send a clear message to unscrupulous institutions that seek to target students for their financial aid while delivering substandard outcomes. Protecting students and taxpayer dollars is a bipartisan issue and Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle will not stand for substandard results.”

A September 2013 investigative report in Bloomberg Markets highlighted two foreign medical schools – American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (AUC) and Ross University School of Medicine – which admit hundreds of students, many of whom were rejected by U.S. medical colleges.  According to the report, students at medical schools operating outside of the United States and Canada amass more student debt than those at medical schools in the United States.  For example, graduates of the American University of the Caribbean have a median of $309,000 in federal student debt versus $180,000 for graduates of U.S. medical schools.


These foreign medical schools are also much less successful ensuring students’ progress all the way through the program.  The average attrition rate at U.S. medical schools is 3% while rates at for-profit foreign medical schools can be up to 26% or higher.  Even if students do finish at these schools, with much more debt, they often have difficulty finding a residency – mandatory for actually practicing medicine in the United States.  In 2015, foreign-trained, American graduates had a residency match rate of 53% compared to 94% of graduates of U.S. medical schools.  They are even less likely to land a residency position the second time around.