Ontario Medical Education Facts

Ontario’s medical students face increased financial challenges

Since the Ontario government announced the deregulation of tuition fees in 1997 for specific undergraduate professional programs, medical school costs have continued to climb at an alarming rate. Good programs of financial support for students are an important means of keeping medical programs accessible to qualified students.

In 1997, the average annual medical school tuition fee in Ontario was $4,977. By 2014, this climbed to $22,909 – representing a 360% increase.

Over the course of four years, an undergraduate medical student is likely to spend over $140,000 in tuition, academic and living expenses.1

Lack of financial assistance

  • Medical students must complete a minimum of three years of undergraduate university education before entering medical school. As a result, many start their medical education with debt loads of $21,000 – $40,000.2
  • Medical students are also not eligible for the 30% off Ontario Tuition Grant.
  • Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) recognizes and evaluates loan eligibility based on a maximum tuition of $12,240, despite the fact that annual medical school tuition is averaging at $22,909 for 2014.
  • In addition to the maximum OSAP loan, many students are resorting to market-rate bank loans to cover the additional shortfall. The interest on these loans must be paid throughout a student’s medical education.
  • Graduating medical students must work as residents for two to seven years before becoming full-fledged physicians – first year residents in Ontario earn $51,065.3
  • The cost to service a $100,000 debt is approximately $14,000/year – which works out to half of their take home pay.

Why this matters

  • These trends raise serious concerns that access to medical education will be restricted based on personal financial resources.
  • High debt loads may discourage capable and qualified students – particularly those from modest financial backgrounds – from applying to medical school at all.
  • We need individuals from different socio-economic, cultural, rural and urban backgrounds to serve an equally diverse population of patients.
  • A recent survey at Western University revealed that since tuition was deregulated:
    • The average family income of incoming students jumped from approximately $80,000 to $140,000.
    • The percentage of students coming from families with an income less than $60,000 has decreased from 35% to 15%.
  • Students’ decisions about what specialty to practice and where to practice may be restricted by the need to pay off debt:
    • Longer training programs, often in disciplines already underserviced, may be passed over in favour of specialties which facilitate quicker entry to practice, and hence quicker loan repayment.
    • Physician supply is already severely constrained in rural and northern practice. High debt loads may discourage graduating students from seeking the additional training needed for rural practice.

1“Budgeting Guide for Medical Students: 2012-2013,” University of Western Ontario, Faculty of Medicine, Admissions/Student and Equity Affairs.

2 National Physician Survey, 2010. Results for Medical Students in Ontario by Sex & Current University.

3 PAIRO (Professional Association of Internes and Residents of Ontario). Salary and Contract Basics. 2011

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