Durbin Introduces Legislation To Improve Accountability Of Foreign Medical Schools Receiving Federal Student Aid

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today introduced legislation that would protect students and taxpayers by closing a loophole that gives special treatment to a small number of overseas medical schools. 

The Foreign Medical School Accountability Fairness Act would require all medical schools outside of the U.S. and Canada to meet the same minimum requirements to receive Title IV student aid dollars. Currently, some overseas medical schools are exempt from meeting the minimum standards to which other foreign medical schools are held: that at least 60 percent of their enrollment must be non-U.S. citizens or permanent residents and that students have at least a 75 percent pass rate on the U.S. Medical Licensing Exam. Three of the exempted schools – all for-profit institutions in the Caribbean – account for nearly three-fourths of the federal student aid going to all foreign medical schools – more than $588 million.

“A small number of medical schools in the Caribbean receive special treatment under U.S. law that has allowed them to take in more than $588 million annually from the U.S. Department of Education in recent years without meeting the same requirements as other medical schools outside of the U.S. and Canada.  My bill would end that special treatment,” Durbin said. “Their students face massive student debt and less chance of actually becoming a doctor than at quality U.S. medical schools.  By closing this loophole, we can bring fairness to the eligibility requirements and increase accountability of schools that receive federal dollars to better protect students and taxpayers.”

Tuition generally costs more at these offshore medical schools and the cost of living is higher.  St. George’s University burdened its students with a median of $386,564 of debt in 2019.  At U.S. medical schools, the median debt was $200,000 in 2019, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.  These foreign medical schools also are much less successful at ensuring students’ progress.  While U.S. medical schools have an on-time completion rate of 82 to 84 percent, the three Caribbean-based medical schools have an average on-time completion rate of 65 percent.  Students who graduate from these schools do so with much more debt and much more difficulty securing a residency, which is mandatory for practicing medicine in the United States.  In 2022, foreign-trained, American graduates had a residency match rate of 61.4 percent compared to 92.9 percent of graduates of U.S. allopathic medical schools and 91.3 percent of graduates of U.S. osteopathic medical schools.

The Foreign Medical School Accountability Fairness Act is supported by the Associated Medical Schools of New York (AMSNY), the Association of American Medical Colleges, the American Osteopathic Association, and the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM).

“The Associated Medical Schools of New York (AMSNY) supports the Foreign Medical School Accountability Fairness Act in order to create a consistent approach to international medical schools—free of carve-outs and exemptions—and ensure that medical schools receiving federal aid are all held to the same rigorous standards,” said Dr. Mark Taubman, Chair of the AMSNY Board of Trustees and Dean of University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.

“To ensure patients in our country receive the best physician care, it is critical that there are uniform standards for foreign medical schools receiving U.S. federal financial aid,” said American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) President and CEO Robert A. Cain, DO. “AACOM thanks Senator Durbin for introducing this important legislation to provide for a more responsible use of federal dollars in advancing the health of our nation.”