Durbin Introduces Legislation to Ensure All Foreign Medical Schools are Held to Same Standards

Investigation by Bloomberg Markets revealed offshore loophole that for-profit colleges have been exploiting to access additional federal funding

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] - U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today introduced legislation that would close a loophole that has given special treatment to a small number of medical schools in the Caribbean that, last year, took in more than $450 million in U.S. Department of Education Title IV funding.  Durbin’s Foreign Medical School Accountability Fairness Act would require five Caribbean medical schools - four of which are for-profit institutions - to meet the same minimum requirements that every other medical school outside of the U.S. and Canada must meet in order to receive federal funding.


The Foreign Medical School Accountability Fairness Act is a simple fix that 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. citizen and students must have at least a 75% pass rate on the U.S. Medical Licensing Exam. 

“Congress has failed taxpayers and students by subsidizing these Caribbean schools with billions in federal dollars for years without adequate accountability and oversight,” said Durbin.  “Despite not meeting these minimum standards, the biggest three for-profit schools impacted by my bill - St. George’s, Ross, and American University of the Caribbean - have taken in two-thirds of federal funding that went to foreign medical schools.  These schools are just another example of the systemic problem we have with for-profit colleges trying to make a profit off of the federal taxpayers while saddling students with questionable degrees and unreasonable debt loads that follow them for the rest of their lives.”


A September 2013 investigative report in Bloomberg Markets highlighted two foreign medical schools owned by DeVry, Inc. – 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 for-profit medical schools operating outside of the United States and Canada amass more student debt than those at medical schools in the United States.  Student debt at AUC averages $253,000 compared to U.S. medical schools where the average debt is $170,000. 


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%.  At DeVry’s two Caribbean medical schools the attrition rate is 20% and 27%.  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 2013, foreign-trained, American graduates had a residency match rate of 53% compared to 94% of graduates of U.S. medical schools.


“The only thing harder than graduating with four years of medical school debt is not graduating and still having one or two years of medical school debt from these schools,” said Durbin.  “I have a message for those schools down in the sunny Caribbean who may have thought they could continue to exploit taxpayers and students without anybody noticing – Congress is watching.”